HOMELECTURE > Takashi Gojobori, Ph.D.
The Evolutionary View of Dr. Susumu Ohno and its Contribution to Genomics
Nozomu Mori, Ph.D.
Faculty of Medicine, Fukuoka International University of Health and Welfare
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Takashi Gojobori, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Charles Darwin was a scientific giant who explained how evolution of organisms have taken place by natural selection. However, he never gave any insight into how life originated. Although a number of studies have been done and are still now going on, none studied how genes and genomes were originated except the late Dr. Susumu Ohno. Since successful publication of his epoch-making book entitled “Evolution by Gene Duplication” in 1970, Dr. Ohno had gradually developed not only his view of the origin of genes but also his own view of evolution. Regarding repetition as the “order”, he believed that evolution took place in a direction from the “order” to the “disorder”. He speculated that a small number of nucleotides formed an oligo-nucleotide fragment and the following repeating processes of this fragment created a prototype of gene at the origin of life. The subsequent mutations led eventually to emergence of a particular gene, which acquired an encoding capability of a protein function associating with amino acids and RNAs. He had proved it by examining nucleotide sequences of immunoglobulin genes. Moreover, the gene music was not his indulgence, but rather his scientific conduct of showing how repetition was dominated over the whole region of nucleotide sequences of a gene.

Actually, evolution by gene duplication was an excellent idea that while the original gene can retain its original function, the other copy duplicated can have a freedom of obtaining new function (neofunctionalization), modifying the original function (sub-functionalization) or even losing the function (non-functionalization). It clearly explained how the gene can evolve by increasing the number of genes. He extended this idea to genome evolution, suggesting that the ancestor of vertebrates experienced at least two-round genome duplications. Such a huge reservoir of freely changeable genes obtained from genome duplication in the vertebrate genomes, enabled them to enjoy creation of various body plans as well as high-ordered control systems including the central nervous system. He also coined the term “Junk DNA”, which has been misunderstood by many scientists, because “Junk DNA” can be reusable sometime in the future while ”rubbish DNA” is merely discarded.

Dr. Ohno’s view was different from the late Dr. Motoo Kimura’s neutral theory of molecular evolution in which stochastic nature such as random genetic drift dominates the evolutionary destiny of organismic populations.

Dr. Ohno was a scientist who pursued unique ideas and innovative concepts through his entire scientific life. He was, indeed, a genius from whom we still learn a lot.

Takashi Gojobori, Ph.D.
Takashi Gojobori is Distinguished Professor of Bioscience at Computational Bioscience Research Center (CBRC) and Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering (BESE) in King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. He is also Distinguished Guest Research Professor at Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan.
Until he moved to KAUST in 2013, he has been the Vice-Director and Professor of National Institute of Genetics (NIG), Mishima, Japan and Director of DNA Data Bank of Japan (DDBJ), being now Professor-Emeritus.

After finishing his Ph.D.(1979) at Kyushu University, Japan, he has been Research Associate and Research Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Houston for 4 years (1979-1983). He has also experienced Visiting Assistant Professor at Washington University in St. Louis (1985, 1986) and Visiting Research Fellow at Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) in London (1989).

He has received the Salvatore Gold Medal from Italy (2004). He is also recipients of the Society Awards of Genetics Society of Japan (2005) and that of Japanese Society of Evolutionary Studies (2004). He has been Foreign Honorary Member of American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2006), Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (2006) and Academician of the Pontifical Academy of Science in Vatican (2007). He has received The Medal with Purple Ribbon from the Government of Japan in 2009. He has been elected as Member of Academia Europaea in 2012, Fellow of the World Academy of Science for the Developing Countries (TWAS) in 2013 and Associate Fellow of EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organization) in 2015. He has been the Vice-President of CODATA/ICSU since 2010 until 2018.

He is the Founding Editor of Genome Biology and Evolution, Editor-in-Chief of GENE, Editor-in-Chief of Ecological Genomics and Genetics, Editor of FEBS Letters and Associate Editor of PLoS Genetics.

He has more than 470 publications in the peer-reviewed international journals on comparative and evolutionary genomics, with Google H-index of 93.

He has worked extensively on marine metagenomics in the Red Sea, the Saudi Human Genome Project, evolution of viral genomes, rates of synonymous and nonsynonymous substitutions, positive selection, horizontal gene transfer, genomic evolution, and comparative gene expression. He has also contributed to the DDBJ/GenBank/EMBL database construction as well as the H-Invitational human gene database.