Mitsuhiro Yanagida is a Japanese molecular biologist noted for his work to decipher how chromosomes in a cell are correctly segregated during the cell cycle, to split perfectly into two daughter cells. He has discovered a host of genes in yeast that are critical to this fundamental process of life.
During mitotic cell division, chromosomes separate into two identical sets. This orderly segregation occurs through tethering of the chromosomes to a subcellular apparatus at their centromere — the joint between identical halves of the chromosome. Mitsuhiro revealed the structure of centromeres in the yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, and the vital proteins that bind to it to achieve separation.
With a systematic approach using molecular and cellular approaches, Mitsuhiro has identified numerous genes that are essential for the regulation of the cell cycle and chromosome segregation. Many of the proteins encoded by these vital yeast genes are now known to have equivalents in humans.