Hiroshi Nakato, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development

Hiroshi Nakato

Contact Info


Office Phone 612-625-1727

Office Address:
Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development
Room 5-245F MoosT
515 Delaware St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Mailing Address:
Genetics, Cell Biology/Dev
Room 6-160 JacH
1217A (Campus Delivery Code)
321 Church St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

PhD, Tokyo Metropolitan University, 1993



Stem cell behavior, Proteoglycan functions, Growth factor signaling


Research Summary/Interests

The long-term goal of our research is to address fundamental questions in stem cell biology: how quantity, quality, and activity of stem cells are precisely controlled in vivo. Stem cells are defined by their unique potential to self-renew and to differentiate into mature cell types, which support normal development and maintain tissue homeostasis. Stem cells typically reside in specialized microenvironments called ‘niches’ that support their ability to self-renew and to retain the characteristics of a stem cell. The niche is usually composed of supporting niche cells, extracellular substrates, and signaling molecules that control stem cell activity. For the future advancement of regenerative medicine and the development of novel cancer therapies, it is critical to understand the molecular basis underlying stem cell control by the niche. To understand fundamental principles of stem cell regulation in the extracellular environment, we focus on the role of heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) in stem cell control using the genetically tractable model organism Drosophila. HSPGs are a special type of carbohydrate-modified proteins that play an essential role in signaling and distribution of various growth factors, including (but not limited to) bone morphogenetic proteins, Wnt/Wingless, and Hedgehog. Genetic studies of Drosophila stem cells, with sophisticated cell lineage tracing techniques, have helped define basic principles of stem cell biology. Using powerful Drosophila stem cell model systems, we seek to elucidate the cellular and molecular basis for poorly understood stem cell behaviors, including stem cell competition, replacement, and tissue regeneration.


Selected Publications

  • Nakato, H. (2015) Heparan sulfate proteoglycans in the Drosophila ovarian germline stem cell niche. Glycoscience: Biology and Medicine 825-32. (Springer Japan)
  • Takemura, M. and Nakato, H. (2014) Genetic approaches in the study of heparan sulfate functions in Drosophila. Methods Mol. Biol. 1229, 497-505. (co-edited by Balagurunathan, K., Nakato, H., and Desai, U., Springer New York)
  • Dejima, K., Takemura, M., Nakato, E., Peterson, J., Hayashi, Y., Kinoshita-Toyoda, A., Toyoda, H., and Nakato, H. (2013) Analysis of Drosophila glucuronyl C-5 epimerase: implications for developmental roles of heparan sulfate sulfation compensation and 2-O sulfated glucuronic acid. J. Biol. Chem. 288: 34384-93.
  • Dejima, K., Kleinschmit, A., Takemura, M., Choi, P.Y., Kinoshita-Toyoda, A., Toyoda, H., and Nakato, H. (2013) The role of Drosophila heparan sulfate 6-O endosulfatase in sulfation compensation. J. Biol. Chem. 288: 6574-82.
  • Kleinschmit, A. Takemura, M., Dejima, K., Choi, P.Y., and Nakato, H. (2013) Drosophila heparan sulfate 6-O endosulfatase Sulf1 facilitates Wingless degradation. J. Biol. Chem. 288: 5081-9.
  • Hayashi, Y.*, Sexton, TR.*, Dejima, K., Perry, DW., Takemura, M., Kobayashi, S., Nakato, H.§, and Harrison, DA.§ (2012) Glypicans regulate JAK/STAT signaling and distribution of the Unpaired morphogen. *These authors contributed equally. §Co-corresponding authors. Development 139: 4162-71.
  • Dejima, K., Kanai, M.I., Akiyama, T., Levings, D., and Nakato, H. (2011) Novel contact-dependent bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling mediated by heparan sulfate proteoglycans. J. Biol. Chem. 286: 17103-11.
  • Kleinschmit, A., Koyama, T., Dejima, K., Hayashi, Y., Kamimura, K., and Nakato H. (2010) Drosophila heparan sulfate 6-O endosulfatase regulates Wingless morphogen gradient formation. Dev. Biol. 345: 204-14.
  • Hayashi, Y., Kobayashi, S., and Nakato, H. (2009) Drosophila glypicans regulate the germline stem cell niche. J. Cell Biol. 187: 473-80.

Complete list of publications available through PubMed.


Board Certifications


Stem cell behavior; Proteoglycan functions; Growth factor signaling