Ken-ichi Noma, Ph.D.

Ken-ichi Noma, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor, Gene Expression and Regulation Program

  • 215-898-3933, Office

Ken-ichi Noma is interested in the mechanisms that regulate the three-dimensional genome structure, which influences various nuclear processes such as transcription, DNA replication, repair, and chromosome segregation. By uncovering the molecular mechanisms governing the three-dimensional genome structure and its biological significance, the Noma laboratory seeks to establish a clear mechanistic framework for understanding the molecular underpinnings for human cancers related to the disorganization of the cell nucleus.

As an undergraduate, Noma studied electronics and computer engineering, developing skills that he puts to good use even now in the fields of genomics and biomedicine. A growing interest in the improvement of human life led Noma to enroll in a biotechnology program where he successfully engineered a strain of carrot that could grow in the desert. His work on carrots involved spontaneous mutations generated during cell culture from whence he developed an interest in how genomes accumulate various mutations and, in particular, the role of mobile genetic elements referred to as transposons.

As a graduate student at the University of Tokyo, he identified novel retrotransposons and characterized the transposition mechanism in terms of epigenetic regulation. His interest in epigenetics led him to a postdoctoral fellowship at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where he pioneered a technique to map specific epigenetic changes over a large chromosomal region of the fission yeast genome. In 2003, he was awarded the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s prestigious Newcomb Cleveland Prize for his work on how RNA interference (RNAi) machinery mediates transcriptional silencing. In 2004, Noma became a staff scientist at the National Cancer Institute.

After joining The Wistar Institute as an assistant professor in 2007, he received the 2008 NIH Director’s New Innovators Award, which is recognized as the most prestigious award for young scientists. The Noma laboratory is also supported by grants from the G. Harold & Leila Y. Mathers Foundation (2011), V Foundation for Cancer Research (2010), Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr. Foundation (2010), and W. W. Smith Charitable Trust (2014).

In the Noma laboratory, recent technological advancements have given rise to the modeling of complex 3-D genome structures in the nucleus of the model organism fission yeast using a genomic approach that combines the molecular biology procedure, called chromosome conformation capture, with massively parallel DNA sequencing. This unique approach to genome modeling is the first to successfully fuse two completely independent disciplines—microscopy and genomics—and it has allowed Noma to show that distinct chromosomal territories exist in fission yeast. By showing that fission yeast has a functional genome organization similar to that found in mammalian transcription factories, this work proves that fission yeast represents the perfect model organism to understand functional organization of eukaryotic genome in higher eukaryotes including human. The Noma laboratory has been hard pressed to understand genome disorganization and chromosome instability in human cancers, but has made much progress in this difficult field of study.

Selected Publications

1 - Kim KD, Tanizawa H, Iwasaki O, Noma K. Transcription factors mediate condensin recruitment and global chromosomal organization in fission yeast. Nature Genetics. 2016; 48(10):1242-52. NIHMSID: NIHMS805462. PMID: 27548313.

2 - Iwasaki O, Corcoran CJ, Noma K. Involvement of condensin-directed gene associations in the organization and regulation of chromosome territories during the cell cycle. Nucleic Acids Research. 2016; 44(8):3618-28. 14, 2160-2170, 2015. PMID: 26704981.

3 - Iwasaki O, Noma K. Condensin-mediated chromosome organization in fission yeast. Current Genetics. 2016. PMID: 27061734.

4 - Gadaleta MC, Das MM, Tanizawa H, Chang YT, Noma K, Nakamura TM, Noguchi E. Swi1Timeless Prevents Repeat Instability at Fission Yeast Telomeres. PLoS Genetics. 2016; 12(3):e1005943. PMID: 26990647.

5 - Kim KD, Iwasaki O, Noma K. An IF-FISH Approach for Covisualization of Gene Loci and Nuclear Architecture in Fission Yeast. Methods in Enzymology. 2016; 574:167-80. PMID: 27423862.

6 - Iwasaki O, Tanizawa H, Kim KD, Yokoyama Y, Corcoran CJ, Tanaka A, Skordalakes E, Showe LC, Noma K. Interaction between TBP and Condensin Drives the Organization and Faithful Segregation of Mitotic Chromosomes. Molecular Cell. 2015; 59(5):755-67. NIHMSID: NIHMS708450. PMID: 26257282.

7 - Yokoyama Y, Zhu H, Zhang R, Noma K. A novel role for the condensin II complex in cellular senescence. Cell Cycle (Georgetown, Tex.). 2015; 14(13):2160-70. PMID: 26017022.

8 - Gadaleta MC, Iwasaki O, Noguchi C, Noma K, Noguchi E. Chromatin immunoprecipitation to detect DNA replication and repair factors. Methods in Molecular Biology (Clifton, N.J.). 2015; 1300:169-86. NIHMSID: NIHMS740044. PMID: 25916713.

9 - Kim KD, Tanizawa H, Iwasaki O, Corcoran CJ, Capizzi JR, Hayden JE, Noma K. Centromeric motion facilitates the mobility of interphase genomic regions in fission yeast. J Cell Science 126, 5271-5283, 2013. PMCID: PMC3828595.

10 - Tanaka A, Tanizawa H, Sriswasdi S, Iwasaki O, Chatterjee AG, Speicher DW, Levin HL, Noguchi E, Noma K. Epigenetic regulation of condensin-mediated genome organization during the cell cycle and upon DNA damage through histone H3 lysine 56 acetylation. Mol Cell 48, 532-546, 2012. PMCID: PMC3513591.