Integrated Bio-metal Science
A purpose of our project
From a project leader Kouhei Tsumoto (Univ. of Tokyo)
A main purpose of our research project is to integrate several research fields dealing with bio-metals into a new inter-disciplinary research field “Bio-metal Science”.
Almost 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates of Kos, a Greek physician of the Age of Pericles, described iron as a medicine for anemia, indicating that relevance of metals in health and disease has long been recognized. Nowadays, not only iron but also other heavy metals such as zinc, copper, manganese, and molybdenum are well known to have essential roles in life. Also, metalloids such as selenium and boron are also required for many organisms. We have defined those metals and metalloids essential to organisms as “Biometal”; excess and deficiency of biometals in our bodies are well known to cause neurodegenerative diseases, cancers, and diabetes as well as anemia. Also in plants, a photosystem contains a manganese ion as a reaction center evolving a molecular oxygen, and an iron ion is essential to biosynthesis of a light-harvesting complex, chlorophyll. Furthermore, biometals play important roles in microorganisms; for example, some kinds of microorganisms can infect us and exert virulence by taking over iron ions from hemoglobin in our blood. Not all heavy metals are essential to physiologies; instead, some toxic metals such as cadmium, mercury, lead, and uranium are major causes of pollution-caused diseases.
An organism can be regarded as a device, which is composed of huge numbers of molecules. Concerted functions of those molecules are known to regulate various physiological phenomena in a biont; in that sense, roles of metals in life have been investigated in a molecular level as well as a cellular level. More specifically, biological inorganic chemistry deals with functions of metal elements in vivo in a atomic/molecular level, while cellular regulation of biometals such as absorption and transport has been investigated in cell biology of metals. Each research field appears to become fully matured; however, an important connection still remains unknown from a metal ion to a molecule to a cell to an organism. Therefore, we will try to establish “Biometal Science” by integrating all research fields related to bio-metals and will decipher tactics of how life utilize bio-metals.
Each of our group members have investigated biometals from various points of views, and now we get together to understand behaviors of biometals in organisms (i.e. Bio-metal dynamics). Our project is composed of the following four sub-projects (A01-A03, B01).