Researchers at UCD


Nobue Itasaki

Senior Lecturer

School Of Medicine & Medical Science
Health Sciences Centre
Dublin 4

Tel: +353 1 716


Dr Nobue Itasaki obtained her degree in Medicine in Hiroshima University and a qualification as a registrar in Japan. She obtained a PhD and then a post-doctoral training in Kyoto, during which time she also worked as a consultant in clinic. She moved to London as a post-doctoral scientist and later as a project leader at MRC National Institute for Medical Research in UK. In 2011 she became a senior lecturer in UCD.



Peer Reviewed Journals

Howard, S; Deroo, T; Fujita, Y; Itasaki, N (2011) 'A positive role of cadherin in Wnt/β-catenin signalling during epithelial-mesenchymal transition'. PLoS ONE, . Available Online [Details]
Kajita, M; Hogan, C; Harris, AR; Dupre-Crochet, S; Itasaki, N; Kawakami, K; Charras, G; Tada, M; Fujita, Y (2010) 'Interaction with surrounding normal cells influences signalling pathways and behaviour of Src-transformed cells'. Journal of Cell Science, . Available Online [Details]
Itasaki, N; Hoppler, S (2010) 'Crosstalk between Wnt and BMP signaling: A turbulent relationship'. Developmental dynamics : an official publication of the American Association of Anatomists, . Available Online [Details]
Lintern, K; Guidato, S; Rowe, A; Saldanha, JW; Itasaki, N (2009) 'Characterization of Wise protein and its molecular mechanism to interact with both BMP and Wnt signals'. Journal of Biological Chemistry, . Available Online [Details]
Amirthalingam, GS; Howard, S; Alvarez, S; de Lera, AR; Itasaki, N (2009) 'Regulation of Hoxb4 induction after neurulation by somite signal and neural competence'. BMC Developmental Biology, . Available Online [Details]
Franch-Marro, X; Wendler, F; Guidato, S; Griffith, J; Baena-Lopez, A; Itasaki, N; Maurice, MM; Vincent, JP (2008) 'Wingless secretion requires endosome-to-Golgi retrieval of Wntless/Evi/Sprinter by the retromer complex'. Nature Cell Biology, . Available Online [Details]
Shigetani, Y; Howard, S; Guidato, S; Furushima, K; Abe, T; Itasaki, N (2008) 'Wise promotes coalescence of cells of neural crest and placode origins in the trigeminal region during head development'. Developmental Biology, . Available Online [Details]
Guidato, S; Itasaki, N (2007) 'Wise retained in the endoplasmic reticulum inhibits Wnt signaling by reducing cell surface LRP6'. Developmental Biology, . Available Online [Details]
Shigetani, Y; Itasaki, N (2007) 'Expression of Wise in chick embryos'. Developmental dynamics : an official publication of the American Association of Anatomists, . Available Online [Details]
Ulloa, F; Itasaki, N; Briscoe, J (2007) 'Inhibitory Gli3 activity negatively regulates Wnt/β-catenin signaling'. Current Biology, . Available Online [Details]
Andoniadou, CL; Signore, M; Sajedi, E; Gaston-Massuet, C; Kelberman, D; Burns, AJ; Itasaki, N; Dattani, M; Martinez-Barbera, JP (2007) 'Lack of the murine homeobox gene Hesx1 leads to a posterior transformation of the anterior forebrain'. Development, . Available Online [Details]
Ellies, DL; Viviano, B; McCarthy, J; Rey, JP; Itasaki, N; Saunders, S; Krumlauf, R (2006) 'Bone density ligand, Sclerostin, directly interacts with LRP5 but not LRP5G171V to modulate Wnt activity'. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, . Available Online [Details]
Mercurio, S; Latinkic, B; Itasaki, N; Krumlauf, R; Smith, JC (2004) 'Connective-tissue growth factor modulates WNT signalling and interacts with the WNT receptor complex'. Development, . Available Online [Details]
Itasaki, N; Jones, CM; Mercurio, S; Rowe, A; Domingos, PM; Smith, JC; Krumlauf, R (2003) 'Wise, a context-dependent activator and inhibitor of Wnt signalling'. Development, . Available Online [Details]
Bel-Vialar, S; Itasaki, N; Krumlauf, R (2002) 'Initiating Hox gene expression: in the early chick neural tube differential sensitivity to FGF and RA signaling subdivides the HoxB genes in two distinct groups'. Development, . Available Online [Details]
Domingos, PM; Itasaki, N; Jones, CM; Mercurio, S; Sargent, MG; Smith, JC; Krumlauf, R (2001) 'The Wnt/β-catenin pathway posteriorizes neural tissue in Xenopus by an indirect mechanism requiring FGF signalling'. Developmental Biology, . Available Online [Details]
Manzanares, M*; Wada, H*; Itasaki, N* (*equal contribution); Trainor, PA; Krumlauf, R; Holland, PW (2000) 'Conservation and elaboration of Hox gene regulation during evolution of the vertebrate head'. Nature, . Available Online [Details]
Itasaki, N; Bel-Vialar, S; Krumlauf, R (1999) ''Shocking' developments in chick embryology: electroporation and in ovo gene expression'. Nature Cell Biology, . Available Online [Details]
Gould, A; Itasaki, N; Krumlauf, R (1998) 'Initiation of rhombomeric Hoxb4 expression requires induction by somites and a retinoid pathway'. Neuron, . Available Online [Details]
Itasaki, N; Sharpe, J; Morrison, A; Krumlauf, R (1996) 'Reprogramming Hox expression in the vertebrate hindbrain: Influence of paraxial mesoderm and rhombomere transposition'. Neuron, . Available Online [Details]
Itasaki, N; Nakamura, H (1996) 'A role for gradient en expression in positional specification on the optic tectum'. Neuron, . Available Online [Details]
Nakamura, H; Itasaki, N; Matsuno, T (1994) 'Rostrocaudal polarity formation of chick optic tectum'. International Journal of Developmental Biology, . Available Online [Details]
Itasaki, N; Nakamura, H (1992) 'Rostrocaudal polarity of the tectum in birds: correlation of en gradient and topographic order in retinotectal projection'. Neuron, . Available Online [Details]
Nakamura, H; Itasaki, N (1992) 'Expression of en in the prosencephalon heterotopically transplanted into the mesencephalon'. Development Growth & Differentiation, . [DOI] [Details]
Itasaki, N; Ichijo, H; Hama, C; Matsuno, T; Nakamura, H (1991) 'Establishment of rostrocaudal polarity in tectal primordium: engrailed expression and subsequent tectal polarity'. Development, . Available Online [Details]
Itasaki, N; Nakamura, H; Sumida, H; Yasuda, M (1991) 'Actin bundles on the right side in the caudal part of the heart tube play a role in dextro-looping in the embryonic chick heart'. Anatomy and Embryology, . Available Online [Details]
Itasaki, N; Nakamura, H; Yasuda, M (1989) 'Changes in the arrangement of actin bundles during heart looping in the chick embryo'. Anatomy and Embryology, . Available Online [Details]

Conference Publications

Ivers, L; Cummings, BK; McCann, A; Itasaki, N (2013) The effect of microenvironment on breast cancer cells cultured in 3D matrix Irish Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting [Details]
Keane, E; Karunakaran, P; Higgins, D; Itasaki, N (2013) Investigation of the effect of hypoxia in neural crest formation British Society of Developmental Biology Annual Meeting [Details]


Research Interests

Our primary interest is the molecular mechanism of embryogenesis and cancer growth, focusing on the common and distinct mechanisms between these contexts.

Embryogenesis and cancer growth share common features, such as the relatively rapid cell proliferation and activation of common signaling pathways. In contrast to the adult body system where homeostasis is the major cellular regulation, embryogenesis and cancer growth both exhibit significant dynamics in cell proliferation, cell movement and the differentiation state. However, the process of embryonic development is well programmed and tightly regulated for its consistent and reliable outcome, whereas the cancer growth is often a result of dysregulation of cell growth. 

A mass of cancer cells continues to grow when transplanted into adult animals. However, when implanted into animal model embryos, cancer cells stop aberrant proliferation and either become indistinguishable from the host cells or differentiate into the original structure (ref 1-3). These results suggest that the embryonic microenvironment stops cancer cells growth and attenuates tumorigenic potential.

Project 1: In vitro analyses of cancer cell behaviour in the embryonic context

By culturing cancer cells in the embryonic context, we are currently analysing the changes in the cellular morphology, cell movement dynamics and the gene/protein expression profile of cancer cells (ref 4).

Project 2: Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in embryogenesis and cancer metastasis

Cancer metastasis is a dynamic process involving a loss of cell-cell adhesion and acquisition of the migratory capacity. This cellular process, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), signifies malignancy in cancer. In normal adult tissues, epithelial cells do not typically undergo EMT. In contrast, embryos undertake dynamic morphological rearrangement caused by EMT, which takes place in various tissues and organs in a tightly regulated manner. 

EMT in embryos is required for development, whereas EMT in tumor is unwanted. Are they caused by the same molecular mechanism or by distinct ones? How does normal adult tissue lose the feature of undergoing EMT and then retrieve the ability when becoming cancer? One difference between embryos and adult tissues is that embryos are relatively hypoxic. Interestingly, EMT in cancer cells is initiated by local hypoxic microenvironment. It is however not known whether local hypoxic microenvironment in embryos regulates EMT or not. We currently investigate this using the neural crest cell migration system in chick embryos as a model system (ref 5).

Our group previously showed that EMT instructively activates the Wnt/β-catenin pathway (ref 6). The Wnt/β-catenin pathway is strongly involved in carcinogenesis and aberrant cell proliferation, but is also required for normal embryogenesis. We aim to elucidate the mechanism whereby embryos regulate the EMT process, i.e., initiate in the right place at the right time and cease at the right time. Our goal is to find a method to cease the malignant behavior of cancer cells by learning from the mechanism of embryonic regulation.



1. Mintz, B. & Illmensee, K. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 72 (9), 3585-3589 (1975).

2. Stoker, A.W., Hatier, C., & Bissell, M.J. J Cell Biol 111 (1), 217-228 (1990).

3. DeCosse, J.J., Gossens, C.L., Kuzma, J.F., & Unsworth, B.R. Science 181 (4104), 1057-1058 (1973).

4. Ivers, L., Cummings, B.K., McCann, A., & Itasaki, N. Irish Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting, P31 (2013).

5. Keane, E., Karunakaran, P., Higgins, D., & Itasaki, N. British Society of Developmental Biology Annual Meeting (2013)

6. Howard, S., Deroo, T., Fujita, Y., & Itasaki, N. PLoS One 6 (8), e23899 (2011).


Current Postgraduate Students

Laura Ivers, Master of Science (MSc)   -   Thesis Supervisor
Eleanor Keane, Master of Science (MSc)   -   Thesis Supervisor



Modules Coordinated

201200   ANAT20070     Human Anatomy: Anatomy of the Thorax
201200   ANAT10120     Human Anatomy: Clinical Human Anatomy II