Dr. Ichiro Taniuchi receives the 16th Japanese Society for Immunology Award

October 15, 2013 NEWS

Ichiro Taniuchi, Group Director of the Laboratory for Transcriptional Regulation, received the 16th Japanese Society for Immunology Award for his elucidation of how T cell development is regulated at the transcriptional level. Taniuchi discovered that Runx transcription factor complexes are essential to activate a silencer in the CD4 gene for its lineage-specific expression. Following identification of a Thpok as a master transcription factor for CD4 T cell development, he indicated that Runx play an essential role in  repression of Thpok gene expression, which is an essential process for differentiation into cytotoxic-lineage T cells. By generating series of gene manipulated mice and cutting edge molecular biology technique, he demonstrated that antagonistic interplay between ThPOK and Runx factors is a key mechanism for an helper/cytotoxic dichotomy, and provided insight into how cell fate decision to become helper or killer T cells is controlled in nucleus. It is noteworthy that he recently uncovered the hidden plasticity in CD4 T cells, which allow them to acquire cytotoxic features upon exposure to the gut environment. This finding of retained flexibility in CD4 T cells gave a big impact in the field of developmental immunology. His expanding research is not only focusing on a molecular link between TCR signals with transcriptional regulation, but also addressing how balance of stability and flexibility is conferred to T cells during thymocyte differentiation. Award is given to a researcher, age 50 or below, whose contribution to the advancement of immunology was original and extraordinary and who is able to further expand research to provide a new paradigm in the Immunology.