Katsutomo OKAMURA, Ph.D, Principal Investigator

Katsutomo Okamura completed his Master’s study at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology and obtained his Ph. D from the Tokushima University. He did his post-doctoral work at the National Institute of Genetics and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where he furthered his research on small RNA biology. He joined TLL as a Principal Investigator in 2012 and holds a joint appointment at the School of Biological Sciences, Nanyang Technological University as an Assistant Professor.

You may wish to contact Dr Katsutomo OKAMURA at:

Tel: (65) 6872 7000, 6872 8408 (DID) or 6872 7426 (lab) Email: okamurak@tll.org.sg

For information on PhD studies at TLL, click HERE

Research Interests

  1. Gene regulation
  2. RNA biology
  3. Small RNA biogenesis

Research Projects

The genomes of higher eukaryotes encode tens of thousands of protein coding genes, and every gene has to be regulated in a coordinated manner. To achieve this complex gene regulation, higher organisms employ several layers of gene regulation, including transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms.

Our group aims to understand how RNA-mediated gene regulatory mechanisms are integrated in the gene regulatory networks. We use Drosophila as a model system to take advantage of the sophisticated genetic tools and the rich information accumulated during the long history of its genetics, which allow us to efficiently combine biochemistry, genetics and genomics.

Our studies are currently focused on small regulatory RNAs, a family of non-protein coding RNAs that plays important roles in gene regulation. In our past studies, we tried to catalogue small RNA genes that are expressed in flies. This effort led us to the discovery of an unexpected variety of small RNA processing pathways (Figure 1).  By asking the following key questions, we try to fully understand the molecular mechanisms and roles of small RNA-mediated gene regulation. Finally, we ask whether the mechanisms discovered in flies are conserved in humans.

Figure 1: Drosophila small RNA pathways

1. How many ways are there to produce small regulatory RNAs?

Our studies using deep sequencing technologies have uncovered a variety of small RNA processing pathways (Figure 1). Cells employ many RNA processing enzymes to generate functional small RNAs from various precursor molecules. Can we understand how many small RNAs are expressed in the organism? Using a combination of next generation sequencing and Drosophila genetics, we deeply annotate small RNA genes and dissect their processing pathways.

2. How are the small RNA precursors produced and processed?

Studies using genetics and biochemistry have identified essential protein components of the small RNA processing pathways. However, it has not been clear how only a subset of cellular transcripts is selected as substrates for these small RNA processing factors. Our biochemical analysis using materials from genetically modified flies will reveal key features of substrate transcripts that are recognized by the enzymes.

3. How are these regulatory mechanisms embedded in the gene regulatory networks?

Our long-term goal is to understand the contribution of small RNA mechanisms in gene regulation. To this end, it is essential to understand interactions between the small RNA pathways and other gene regulatory pathways. Drosophila genetics and its rich information in RNA biology will enable us to identify and characterize the intersections between the small RNA pathways and other pathways.