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Dr Kazu Tomita
Paul O'Gorman Building, 72 Huntley Street, London
  • Principal Research Fellow
  • Research Department of Cancer Bio
  • Cancer Institute
  • Faculty of Medical Sciences

Kazunori (Kazu) Tomita completed his PhD studies on investigation of the molecular mechanism underlying DNA end resection of both the double-strand breaks and telomeres in Shizuoka University (Japan) under the supervision of Dr. Masaru Ueno. In 2004, He moved to Cancer Research UK London Research Institute as a Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Julia Promisel Cooper, where he discovered novel function of telomeres in controlling meiosis spindles. In 2010, He worked with Dr. Andy Porter at the Imperial College London, investigating cell cycle control of double-strand beak repair and the role of Cyclin-Dependent Kinase in human cell lines. In the same year, he was awarded a CRUK Career Development fellowship, and joined University College London Cancer Institute from December 2010.

Research Themes
Research Summary

Telomere dynamics and chromosome segregation

An essential role of telomeres is the differentiation of bona fide chromosomal ends from damaged DNA double-strand breaks, which is indispensable for maintaining chromosome integrity.  DNA replication-associated telomere shortening limits the number of divisions a cell can undergo before triggering the cessation of growth.  In the absence of the senescence checkpoint per se, critically short telomeres confer chromosome fusions, leading to loss of genomic information and aneuploidy.  In the majority of human cancer cells, telomerase is highly active although relatively short telomeres are maintained, resulting in immortal cells that sustain a high risk of chromosome instability. My research goal is to elucidate fundamental molecular mechanism of telomerase action: in particular from telomerase recruitment to telomere extension steps. Finally, I hope to understand altered telomerase regulation and activity in cancer cells and how cancer telomeres can confer chromosome instability.

Telomeres are also involved in the mechanisms controlling faithful segregation of chromosomes in meiosis. In early meiotic prophase, telomeres move to the nuclear membrane and migrate toward a limited area of the nuclear envelope, often near the microtubule-organising centre (or centrosome). This dynamic movement of telomeres folds chromosomes to form a so-called ‘chromosomal bouquet’. This formation is important for meiotic recombination and meiotic spindle control. I focus on structural/functional change of the telomere through the meiotic prophase to understand communication between chromosomes and the nuclear membrane that promote meiosis progression. Interestingly, some cancer cells maintain telomeres via a recombination mechanism that may employ meiotic recombination mechanism. Thus, the study of meiotic telomere may lead to the identification of non-canonical functions of telomeres.

We primarily use fission yeast as a model system to study telomeres, as telomere structure and the functions of telomeric proteins are well conserved to that of humans. We also study cancer cell lines to investigate altered telomerase regulation. The main techniques used are genetics, biochemistry and live cell imaging.  Our particular focus so far has been;

  1.  Mechanism of telomerase action: recruitment and activation/processivity
  2.  Control of mRNA and telomere length homeostasis in normal and cancer cells
  3.  Dynamics and function of telomeres in meiosis

More details of research background and our aims in the HP: 

Teaching Summary

  • Faculty of Life Sciences BSc and MSci research projects: BIOC3002, BIOC3004, BIOL3005, BIOLM005
  • Cancer Institute MSc course: lecture and thesis project supervision and marking
  • Imperial College London, Human Genetics MSc course: thesis project supervision

13-DEC-2010 – 30-AUG-2018 Principal Research Fellow Cancer Biology Cancer Institute, United Kingdom
Academic Background
2004 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Environmental Sciences Japan, Shizuoka University
2001 MSc Master of Science – Chemistry Japan, Shizuoka University
1999 BSc Bachelor of Science – Chemistry Japan, Shizuoka University
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