Honors & Awards

  • Postdoctoral fellowship, Swiss National Science Foundation (2009-2010)
  • Long term fellowship, Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) (2010-2013)

Education & Certifications

  • Ph.D, Friedrich Miescher Institute, Basel, Switzerland, Molecular Biology (2009)
  • Master of Science, Kyoto University, Molecular Biology (2003)
  • Bachelor of Science, Kyoto University, Pharmaceutical Sciences (2001)

All Publications

  • Chromatin potentiates transcription. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Nagai, S., Davis, R. E., Mattei, P. J., Eagen, K. P., Kornberg, R. D. 2017; 114 (7): 1536-1541


    Chromatin isolated from the chromosomal locus of the PHO5 gene of yeast in a transcriptionally repressed state was transcribed with 12 pure proteins (80 polypeptides): RNA polymerase II, six general transcription factors, TFIIS, the Pho4 gene activator protein, and the SAGA, SWI/SNF, and Mediator complexes. Contrary to expectation, a nucleosome occluding the TATA box and transcription start sites did not impede transcription but rather, enhanced it: the level of chromatin transcription was at least sevenfold greater than that of naked DNA, and chromatin gave patterns of transcription start sites closely similar to those occurring in vivo, whereas naked DNA gave many aberrant transcripts. Both histone acetylation and trimethylation of H3K4 (H3K4me3) were important for chromatin transcription. The nucleosome, long known to serve as a general gene repressor, thus also performs an important positive role in transcription.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1620312114

    View details for PubMedID 28137832

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5320956

  • Tfb6, a previously unidentified subunit of the general transcription factor TFIIH, facilitates dissociation of Ssl2 helicase after transcription initiation PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Murakami, K., Gibbons, B. J., Davis, R. E., Nagai, S., Liu, X., Robinson, P. J., Wu, T., Kaplan, C. D., Kornberg, R. D. 2012; 109 (13): 4816-4821


    General transcription factor TFIIH, previously described as a 10-subunit complex, is essential for transcription and DNA repair. An eleventh subunit now identified, termed Tfb6, exhibits 45% sequence similarity to human nuclear mRNA export factor 5. Tfb6 dissociates from TFIIH as a heterodimer with the Ssl2 subunit, a DNA helicase that drives promoter melting for the initiation of transcription. Tfb6 does not, however, dissociate Ssl2 from TFIIH in the context of a fully assembled transcription preinitiation complex. Our findings suggest a dynamic state of Ssl2, allowing its engagement in multiple cellular processes.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1201448109

    View details for Web of Science ID 000302164200028

    View details for PubMedID 22411836

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3323989

  • Nuclear organization in genome stability: SUMO connections CELL RESEARCH Nagai, S., Davoodi, N., Gasser, S. M. 2011; 21 (3): 474-485


    Recent findings show that chromatin dynamics and nuclear organization are not only important for gene regulation and DNA replication, but also for the maintenance of genome stability. In yeast, nuclear pores play a role in the maintenance of genome stability by means of the evolutionarily conserved family of SUMO-targeted Ubiquitin ligases (STUbLs). The yeast Slx5/Slx8 STUbL associates with a class of DNA breaks that are shifted to nuclear pores. Functionally Slx5/Slx8 are needed for telomere maintenance by an unusual recombination-mediated pathway. The mammalian STUbL RNF4 associates with Promyelocytic leukaemia (PML) nuclear bodies and regulates PML/PML-fusion protein stability in response to arsenic-induced stress. A subclass of PML bodies support telomere maintenance by the ALT pathway in telomerase-deficient tumors. Perturbation of nuclear organization through either loss of pore subunits in yeast, or PML body perturbation in man, can lead to gene amplifications, deletions, translocations or end-to-end telomere fusion events, thus implicating SUMO and STUbLs in the subnuclear organization of select repair events.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/cr.2011.31

    View details for Web of Science ID 000288064900009

    View details for PubMedID 21321608

  • Nuclear Geometry and Rapid Mitosis Ensure Asymmetric Episome Segregation in Yeast CURRENT BIOLOGY Gehlen, L. R., Nagai, S., Shimada, K., Meister, P., Taddei, A., Gasser, S. M. 2011; 21 (1): 25-33


    Asymmetric cell division drives the generation of differentiated cells and maintenance of stem cells. In budding yeast, autonomously replicating sequence (ARS) plasmids lacking centromere elements are asymmetrically segregated into the mother cell, where they are thought to contribute to cellular senescence. This phenomenon has been proposed to result from the active retention of plasmids through an interaction with nuclear pores.To investigate the mother-daughter segregation bias of plasmids, we used live-cell imaging to follow the behavior of extrachromosomal DNA. We show that both an excised DNA ring and a centromere-deficient ARS plasmid move freely in the nucleoplasm yet show a strong segregation bias for the mother cell. Computational modeling shows that the geometrical shape of the dividing yeast nucleus and length of mitosis severely restrict the passive diffusion of episomes into daughter nuclei. Predictions based on simulated nuclear division were tested with mutants that extend the length of mitosis. Finally, explaining how various anchors can improve mitotic segregation, we show that plasmid partitioning is improved by tethering the plasmid to segregating structures, such as the nuclear envelope and telomeres.The morphology and brevity of mitotic division in budding yeast impose physical constraints on the diffusion of material into the daughter, obviating the need for a retention mechanism to generate rejuvenated offspring.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2010.12.016

    View details for Web of Science ID 000286485200022

    View details for PubMedID 21194950

  • Roles for nuclear organization in the maintenance of genome stability EPIGENOMICS Nagai, S., Heun, P., Gasser, S. M. 2010; 2 (2): 289-305


    Recent findings demonstrate that chromatin dynamics and nuclear organization are not only important for gene regulation but also for the maintenance of genome stability. Thanks to novel techniques that allow the visualization of specific chromatin domains in living cells, recent studies have demonstrated that the spatial dynamics of double-strand breaks and modifying enzymes can influence repair. The importance of the spatial organization in the repair of DNA damage has been confirmed by demonstrating that perturbation of nuclear organization can lead to gene amplifications, deletions, translocations and end-to-end telomere fusion events.

    View details for DOI 10.2217/EPI.09.49

    View details for Web of Science ID 000278299100013

    View details for PubMedID 22121875

  • Posttranslational modifications of repair factors and histones in the cellular response to stalled replication forks DNA REPAIR Schleker, T., Nagai, S., Gasser, S. M. 2009; 8 (9): 1089-1100


    DNA damage during replication requires an integration of checkpoint response with replication itself and distinct repair pathways, such as replication pausing, recombination and translesion synthesis. Here we focus on recent advances in our understanding of how protein posttranslational modifications contribute to the maintenance of fork integrity. In particular, we examine the role of histone modifications and chromatin remodeling complexes in this process.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.dnarep.2009.04.010

    View details for Web of Science ID 000269727000014

    View details for PubMedID 19482523

  • The functional importance of telomere clustering: Global changes in gene expression result from SIR factor dispersion GENOME RESEARCH Taddei, A., Van Houwe, G., Nagai, S., Erb, I., van Nimwegen, E., Gasser, S. M. 2009; 19 (4): 611-625


    Budding yeast telomeres and cryptic mating-type loci are enriched at the nuclear envelope, forming foci that sequester silent information regulators (SIR factors), much as heterochromatic chromocenters in higher eukaryotes sequester HP1. Here we examine the impact of such subcompartments for regulating transcription genome-wide. We show that the efficiency of subtelomeric reporter gene repression depends not only on the strength of SIR factor recruitment by cis-acting elements, but also on the accumulation of SIRs in such perinuclear foci. To monitor the effects of disrupting this subnuclear compartment, we performed microarray analyses under conditions that eliminate telomere anchoring, while preserving SIR complex integrity. We found 60 genes reproducibly misregulated. Among those with increased expression, 22% were within 20 kb of a telomere, confirming that the nuclear envelope (NE) association of telomeres helps repress natural subtelomeric genes. In contrast, loci that were down-regulated were distributed over all chromosomes. Half of this ectopic repression was SIR complex dependent. We conclude that released SIR factors can promiscuously repress transcription at nontelomeric genes despite the presence of "anti-silencing" mechanisms. Bioinformatic analysis revealed that promoters bearing the PAC (RNA Polymerase A and C promoters) or Abf1 binding consenses are consistently down-regulated by mislocalization of SIR factors. Thus, the normal telomeric sequestration of SIRs both favors subtelomeric repression and prevents promiscuous effects at a distinct subset of promoters. This demonstrates that patterns of gene expression can be regulated by changing the spatial distribution of repetitive DNA sequences that bind repressive factors.

    View details for DOI 10.1101/gr.083881.108

    View details for Web of Science ID 000264781900010

    View details for PubMedID 19179643

  • Functional targeting of DNA damage to a nuclear pore-associated SUMO-dependent ubiquitin ligase SCIENCE Nagai, S., Dubrana, K., Tsai-Pflugfelder, M., Davidson, M. B., Roberts, T. M., Brown, G. W., Varela, E., Hediger, F., Gasser, S. M., Krogan, N. J. 2008; 322 (5901): 597-602


    Recent findings suggest important roles for nuclear organization in gene expression. In contrast, little is known about how nuclear organization contributes to genome stability. Epistasis analysis (E-MAP) using DNA repair factors in yeast indicated a functional relationship between a nuclear pore subcomplex and Slx5/Slx8, a small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO)-dependent ubiquitin ligase, which we show physically interact. Real-time imaging and chromatin immunoprecipitation confirmed stable recruitment of damaged DNA to nuclear pores. Relocation required the Nup84 complex and Mec1/Tel1 kinases. Spontaneous gene conversion can be enhanced in a Slx8- and Nup84-dependent manner by tethering donor sites at the nuclear periphery. This suggests that strand breaks are shunted to nuclear pores for a repair pathway controlled by a conserved SUMO-dependent E3 ligase.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1162790

    View details for Web of Science ID 000260299100046

    View details for PubMedID 18948542