Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences
Tohoku University


Manabu Bessho-Uehara

Assistant ProfessorLife and Environment

Mentor Information
Takashi Makino (Graduate School of Life Sciences)
Research Fields Bioluminescence, Evolutionary biology
Research Subjects
  • Elucidating the mechanism of kleptoprotein uptake
  • Elucidatiing of the evolutionary origin of bioluminescence
  • Elucidating of the spatio-temporal control of bioluminescence
Academic Society Membership  
Society of Evolutionary Studies, Japan, The Zoological Society of Japan, The Japanese Sciety of Soil Zoology, Deep-sea biology Society
Research Outline  

Organisms that illuminate themselves, like fireflies, are known as bioluminescent organisms. Over 7,000 diverse species of bioluminescent organisms are known worldwide, yet the chemical substances they use to glow, the reasons for their luminescence, as well as the control of the light, and the evolution are largely unexplored. I study on bioluminescent organisms living in various habitats, from fireflies in forests and springtails in soil to planktons in the ocean, and deep-sea corals. I aim to discover new bioluminescent organisms, unravel the unknown mechanisms of their luminescence, and decipher the mysteries of their evolution. This curiosity-driven basic research deciphers Earth's history, understands the formation of complex ecosystems, and identifies critical elements for environmental conservation, thereby contributing to policymaking. Additionally, it sometimes leads to unexpectedly important discoveries.

I have discovered ‘kleptoprotein’, meaning stolen protein, in the bioluminescent fish, Parapriacanthus ransonneti. This species lacks the genes necessary for the bioluminescent reaction but, instead, acquires the proteins for this reaction by eating bioluminescent organisms, absorbing the luminous protein without digesting them. Understanding how these dietary proteins are sequestered, retained, and used without being digested and decomposed help us comprehend how organisms acquire new abilities like bioluminescence. Moreover, if we can apply this mechanism, it may lead to innovative technologies for delivering functional proteins to specific body organs via oral administration, such as drug delivery systems.


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