Prizes & Awards

Prof. C. Toyoshima is awarded the Asahi Prize

  • T. Akiyama (Professor, Department of Biophysics and Biochemistry)
Figure 1

Prof. Chikashi Toyoshima

Chikashi Toyoshima, professor of physics and biophysics & biochemistry, has won the Asahi Prize 2009 for his twenty-year study on “Elucidation of the Mechanism of the Calcium Pump”.

Calcium pump is a “membrane protein” embedded in biological membrane and transports calcium ions against a concentration gradient using the energy released by hydrolytic cleavage of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). For example, it pumps calcium ions released into muscle cells during contraction back into the sarcoplasmic reticulum, which is a reservoir of calcium ions, and thereby relaxes muscle cells. Prof. Toyoshima succeeded in determining the first crystal structure in 2000 by developing an original technology for crystallization of the calcium pump protein, in which nobody had ever succeeded. In addition to that, he further determined the crystal structures of many intermediates in the reaction cycle by using SPring-8 and accomplished a groundbreaking study, in which the complex movements involved in transporting ions against a concentration gradient are explained on the basis of atomic structures. And the size of the structural changes accompanying the movements was something that nobody had ever anticipated. Therefore, his study stimulated many related ones and made a significant impact on structural biology.

Currently, Prof. Toyoshima is working on the structural study of sodium-potassium pump, which is more complex and biologically and medically more important than the calcium pump.