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Shinya Inoué

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Shinya Inoué

Shinya Inoué (井上 信也 Inoue Shin'ya?, born 1921) is a Japanese-born American biophysicist and cell biologist, a member of the National Academy of Sciences. His research field is the visualization of dynamic processes within living cells using the light microscope. Currently he is a researcher at the Marine Biological Laboratory.

Inoue can be considered the father of the field of cytoskeleton dynamics. In the 1940s and 50s he built the first microscope capable of imaging dynamic processes in live cells, using polarized light, and proved for the first time that the mitotic spindle is composed of aligned protein fibers.[1] We now know these fibers are microtubules. By perturbing cells with agents that cause microtubules to depolymerize (e.g. colchicine or high pressure) or polymerize excessively (e.g. D2O), Inoue demonstrated that spindle fibers are in a state of rapid dynamic equilibrium with a pool of soluble subunits in the cytoplasm. He went on to show that artificial polymerization and depolymerization of spindle fibers can generate forces within the cell, and proposed that chromosomes are normally moved by such forces during mitosis. These ideas were summarized in a seminal review in 1967.[2] He also was the first to develop video microscopy, and wrote a major textbook on the subject.[3] Consistent with Inoue's pioneering ideas, it is now widely believed that chromosome movement during mitosis is powered by microtubule depolymerization. We also know that force generation by polymerization and depolymerization of cytoskeletal protein fibers is perhaps the most ancient of motile mechanisms within cells, whose use extends back to bacteria.


  • 1951 Ph.D. Biology, Princeton University
  • 1950 M.A. Biology, Princeton University
  • 1944 Rigakushi Zoology, Tokyo University


  • Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, May 2010
  • International Prize for Biology from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, December 2003
  • Ernst Abbe award, New York Microscopical Society, 1997
  • United States National Academy of Sciences, Elected, April 1993
  • E.B. Wilson Medal, 1992
  • Guggenheim Fellowship, 1970


  • "For 6 decades, he's been a visionary", The Boston Globe, June 19, 2006 [1]
  • "Inoué takes Japan's int'l prize", The Scientist 2003, 4(1):20030922-04, September 22, 2003 [2]

External links

  • Laboratory of Shinya Inoué
  • Shinya Inoué's short talk: "The Dynamic Mitotic Spindle"
  • "A tribute to Shinya Inoué", JCB - The Rockefeller University Press
  • "Pioneers in Optics", Molecular Expressions
  • Shinya Inoué Honored by the Government of Japan, MBL Press release

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