PHILADELPHIA—(June 16, 2014)—The Wistar Institute Training Committee has chosen Hiromitsu Ota, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow working in the Wistar laboratory of Kazuko Nishikura, Ph.D., to receive the 2014 Ching Jer Chern Memorial Award. The award is given annually to the Wistar postdoctoral fellow who has published the best scientific paper during the year.
Ota came to Wistar in 2009, after earning his Ph.D. in biology from Kyushu University, in Japan. His paper, “ADAR1 Forms a Complex with Dicer to Promote MicroRNA Processing and RNA-Induced Gene Silencing” appeared in the April 25, 2013 issue of Cell. Collaborating with Ota were Kazuko Nishikura, Ph.D., and Masayuki Sakurai, Ph.D., of The Wistar Institute, and Ravi Gupta, Ph.D., a former Wistar postdoctoral fellow.
Ota’s research focuses on a newly-identified function of ADAR1 and sheds light on how ADAR1 proteins when combined with Dicer proteins regulate gene expression through enhancement of the production of microRNA, small non-coding RNA which function in post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. According to the Wistar team, the RNA-editing protein ADAR1, once thought to have a minor role in gene regulation, can alter the expression of numerous human genes.
“How ADAR1 functions is still not completely understood. Ota’s work is vital in understanding how ADAR1 plays a major role in the regulation of RNA gene silencing mechanisms during development,” stated Nishikura, Ph.D., professor in Wistar’s Gene Expression and Regulation program. “Understanding ADAR1 in RNA gene silencing can lead to understanding the cause of genetic diseases of development.”
“The function of the nuclear ADAR1 in A-to-I editing has been well-established. However, for the first time, identifying the RNA editing-independent function of ADAR1 in the RNAi mechanism has shown that ADAR1 can change the expression of miRNAs, which leads to the coordinated decrease in the expression of genes involved in many different biological functions and pathways. In fact, ADAR1 null mice have embryonic lethal phenotypes illustrating ADAR1’s importance.” Ota said.
Ota delivered his Chin Jer Chern Memorial Award Lecture titled ” New Function of ADAR1 in RNAi Mechanism” at the award ceremony lecture on June 13, 2014.
Ching Jer Chern, Ph.D., was a member of Wistar’s scientific staff from 1974 until his death from cancer in 1987. The endowment that supports the award was established in 1989 by his wife, June Chern, as a way of paying tribute to her husband’s work at Wistar on the genetic basis of cancer. Each year, she travels from her home in California to make the award presentation.
The Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research with special expertise in cancer research and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute in the country, Wistar has long held the prestigious Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute. The Institute works actively to ensure that research advances move from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible. The Wistar Institute: Today’s Discoveries – Tomorrow’s Cures. On the Web at www.wistar.org.