International Prize for Biology
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)

International Prize for biology

Past Recipients


The Committee on the International Prize for Biology of Japan Society
for the Promotion of Science awards the 2015 International Prize for Biology
in the field of "Cell Biology" to
Dr. Ohsumi, Honorary Professor of Frontier Research Center, Tokyo Institute of Technology,JAPAN

  On 29 July, the Committee on the International Prize for Biology (chaired by Dr. Takashi Sugimura, president, the Japan Academy) of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science decided to award the 31st (2015) International Prize for Biology to Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi, Honorary Professor of Frontier Research Center, Tokyo Institute of Technology.
  The field of specialization for the 31st Prize is "Cell Biology".

NAME :  Yoshinori Ohsumi
DATE OF BIRTH :  February 9, 1945
PRESENT POSITION :  Honorary Professor, Frontier Research Center, Tokyo Institute of Technology

Education and Professional Positions

1967   B.Sc., College of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo
1969 M.Sc., Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo
1969–1972 Doctoral candidate, Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo
1972–1974 Research fellow, Department of Agricultural Chemistry, Faculty of Agriculture, The University of Tokyo
1974 D.Sc., Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo
1974–1977 Postdoctoral Fellow, Rockefeller University, U.S.A
1977–1986 Research Associate, Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, The University of Tokyo
1986–1988 Lecturer, Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, The University of Tokyo
1988–1996 Assistant Professor, College of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo
1996–2009 Professor, National Institute for Basic Biology, Okazaki, Japan
2009–2014 Specially Appointed Professor, Frontier Research Center, Tokyo Institute of Technology
2014–present Specially Appointed Honorary Professor, Frontier Research Center, Tokyo Institute of Technology


June 2005   Fujihara Award
July 2006   Japan Academy Prize
September 2007   Academic Prize of the Botanical Society of Japan
January 2009   Asahi Prize
November 2012   Kyoto Prize
September 2013   Thomson Reuters Citation Laureate
2013   Elected to EMBO membership
April 2015   Japan Endocrine Society (JES) Meister Award
October 2015   Canada Gairdner International Award

Achievements Recognized by the Awards

  Dr. Ohsumi has made great and groundbreaking achievements in the field of autophagy (self-eating). At a time when this phenomenon was known only observationally, by electron microscopy, he dissected it at a molecular level and not only determined its detailed mechanism but also demonstrated its importance in many aspects of life, including development, disease, and infection. This world-leading work has made autophagy research a cutting-edge field in the life sciences.

  Autophagy is a phenomenon which, under starvation conditions, allows the degradation and recycling of cellular components including organelles and proteins. Although it had been described in electron microscope observations of animal cells, its molecular mechanism remained a mystery. In the early 1990s, observing yeast cells under starvation conditions with a light microscope, Dr. Ohsumi saw structures that vigorously moved around appear in the vacuole—a discovery that opened up a completely new field of study. After identifying this phenomenon as a form of autophagy, Dr. Ohsumi succeeded in isolating a mutant yeast strain in which it did not occur. He then led the field with pioneering work that identified responsible genes from a large number of autophagy-deficient yeast mutants and, in quick succession, established the functions of the proteins that these genes encoded. Much work continues to be done in this area today using animal and plant cells. From these studies, it has gradually emerged that autophagy-related (ATG) genes are well conserved in eukaryotes and that the process has a number of very important physiological roles. Life phenomena in which it is known to play a part range from early development and the avoidance of neonatal starvation to the elimination from cytoplasm of abnormal proteins and damaged organelles, response to bacterial and viral infections, and immunity. Autophagy has also been implicated in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and in cancer.

  Thus, starting from a complete lack of molecular-level knowledge, Dr. Ohsumi’s research elucidated the mechanism by which the action of multiple ATG genes leads to autophagy, showed it to be an important life phenomenon widely conserved in the biological world, and established a major new field of the life sciences. Autophagy studies are currently undergoing explosive development, none of which could have happened without his work on yeast. These distinguished achievements make Dr. Ohsumi a worthy recipient of the International Prize for Biology.

Representative Publications:

  1. Takeshige, K., Babe, M., Tsuboi, S., Noda, T., and, Ohsumi, Y. Autophagy in yeast demonstrated with proteins-deficient mutants and its conditions for induction. J. Cell Biol., 119, 301-311 (1992)
  2. Tsukada, M., and Ohsumi, Y. Isolation and characterization of autophagy-defective mutants of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. FEBS Lett., 333, 169-174 (1993)
  3. Baba, M., Takeshige, K., Baba, N., and Ohsumi, Y. Ultrastructural analysis of the autophagic process in yeast: detection of autophagosomes and their characterization. J. Cell Biol., 124, 903-913 (1994)
  4. Noda, T., and Ohsumi, Y. Tor, a phosphatidylinositol kinase homologue, controls autophagy in yeast. J. Biol. Chem., 273, 3963-3966 (1998)
  5. Mizushima, N., Noda, T., Yoshimori, T., Tanaka, T., Ishii, T., George, M. D. Klionsky, D. J., Ohsumi, M., and Ohsumi, Y. A protein conjugation system essential for autophagy. Nature, 395, 395-398 (1998)
  6. Kirisako, T., Baba, M., Ishihara, N., Miyazawa, K., Ohsumi, M., Yoshimori, T., Noda, T., and Ohsumi Y. Formation process of autophagosome is traced with Apg8/Aut7p in yeast. J. Cell Biol., 147, 435-446 (1999)
  7. Kabeya, Y., Mizushima, N., Ueno, T., Yamamoto, A., Kirisako, T., Noda, T., Kominami, E., Ohsumi, Y., and Yoshimori, T. LC3, a mammalian homologue of yeast Apg8p is localized in autophagosome membranes after processing. EMBO J., 19, 5720-5728, (2000)
  8. Ichimura, Y., Kirisako, T., Takao, T., Satomi, Y., Shimonishi, Y., Ishihara, N., Mizushima, N., Tanida, I., Kominami, E., Ohsumi, M., Noda, T., and Ohsumi, Y. A ubiquitin-like system mediates protein lipidation. Nature>, 408, 488-492 (2000)
  9. Kihara, A., Noda, T., Ishihara, N., and Ohsumi, Y. Two distinct Vps34 phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase complexes function in autophagy and carboxypeptidase Y sorting in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. J. Cell Biol., 152, 519-530 (2001)
  10. Suzuki, K., Kirisako, T., Kamada, Y., Mizushima, N., Noda, T. and Ohsumi, Y. The pre-autophagosomal structure organized by concerted functions of APG genes is essential for autophagosome formation. EMBO J., 20, 5971-5981 (2001)
  11. Ichimura,Y., Imamura,Y., Emoto, K., Umeda, M., Noda, T., and Ohsumi, Y. In vivo and in vitro reconstitution of Atg8 conjugation essential for autophagy. J. Biol. Chem., 279, 40584-40592 (2004)
  12. Yoshimoto, K., Hanaoka, H., Sato, S., Kato, T., Tabata, S., Noda, T., and Ohsumi, Y. Processing of ATG8s, ubiquitin-like proteins, and their deconjugation by ATG4s are essential for plant autophagy. Plant Cell, 16, 2967-2983 (2004)
  13. Kuma, A., Hatano, M., Matsui, M., Yamamoto, A., Nakaya, H., Yoshimori, T., Ohsumi, Y., Tokuhisa, T., and Mizushima, N. The role of autophagy during the early neonatal starvation period. Nature, 432, 1032-1036 (2004)
  14. Suzuki, K., Kubota, Y., Sekito, T., and Ohsumi, Y. Hierarchy of Atg proteins in pre-autophagsomal structure organization. Genes Cells, 12, 209-218 (2007).
  15. Nakatogawa, H., Ichimura, Y., and Ohsumi, Y. Atg8, a ubiquitin-like protein required for autophagosome formation, mediates membrane tethering and hemifusion. Cell, 130, 165-178 (2007)
  16. Okamoto, K., Kondo-Okamoto, N., and Ohsumi, Y. Mitochondria-anchored receptor Atg32 mediates degradation of mitochondria via selective autophagy. Dev. Cell, 17, 87-97 (2009)
  17. Sakoh-Nakatogawa, M., Matoba, K., Asai, E., Kirisako, H., Ishii, J., Noda, N. N, Inagaki, F., Nakatogawa, H., and Ohsumi, Y. Atg12-Atg5 conjugate enhances E2 activity of Atg3 by rearranging its catalytic site. Nat. Struct. Mol. Biol., 20, 433-439 (2013)
  18. Suzuki, K., Akioka, M., Kondo-Kakuta, C., Yamamoto, H., and Ohsumi, Y. Fine mapping of autophagy-related proteins during autophagosome formation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. J. Cell Sci., 1, 2534-44 (2013)
  19. Yamamoto, H., Kakuta, S., Watanabe, TM., Kitamura, A., Sekito, T., Kondo-Kakura, C., Ichikawa, R., Kinjo, M., and Ohsumi, Y. Atg9 vesicles are an important membrane source during early steps of autophagosome formation. J. Cell Biol., 198, 219-233. (2012)
  20. Huang, H., Kawamata, T., Horie, T., Tsugawa, H., Nakayama, Y., Ohsumi, Y., and Fukusaki, E. Bulk RNA degradation by nitrogen starvation-induced autophagy in yeast. EMBO J., 3 4, 154-168 (2015)