Phytochemical Plant Molecular Sciences

Phytochemical Plant Molecular Sciences

Kazuki Saito

Kazuki Saito obtained his PhD from the University of Tokyo in 1982. He has been appointed full professor from 1995 until now at the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chiba University. Since 2005, he has additionally served as a group director at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (formerly, RIKEN Plant Science Center), and now holds the position of a Deputy Center Director. He was awarded The Prize for Science and Technology (Research Category) by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan, in 2010, The Award for Distinguished Research by the Japanese Society for Plant Cell and Molecular Biology in 2011, The PSJ Award by the Japanese Society of Pharmacognosy in 2014, and Japanese Society of Plant Physiologists (JSPP) Award in 2016. He was also selected one of Highly Cited Researchers 2014 and 2015 in the 'Plant & Animal Science' field, and one of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) TOP AUTHORS in 2010 and 2015. His research is focused on the functional genomics, biosynthesis and biotechnology of plant natural products.

Phytochemicals" as survival strategy of plants

A variety of chemicals produced by the plants (phytochemicals) have been used for medicines, food, fuel, and such as industrial raw materials. Therefore, we human beings are alive to be given the benefits from the plants, but it does not mean the plants providing the benefits to human beings when viewed from the plant side. Plants, as sessile organisms, have developed mechanisms making a wide variety of chemical constituents for their survival strategy in the course of evolution. These plant chemicals with an enormous chemical diversity exhibit a variety of biological activities, originally playing indispensable roles such as protection against predators and attracting insets for pollination. This is the metabolic phenotype of plants (phenotype (P)). This metabolic phenotype is the function of the whole genome (G) of a given plant and the molecular response in accordance with the environment (E). Therefore, these three important elements are represented by a simple equation such as the following.

Phenotype (P)
= Genome (G) × Environment (E)

the basis of production of phytochemicals beneficial to human lives

Our research project aims to clarify genomic basis of production of phytochemicals, their chemical structures and activities, and their environmental responses, by revealing the principles behind the chemical diversity and unity of plant metabolites. In addition, we shall apply the obtained knowledge to the development of new pharmaceuticals and reagents, the development of health-functional food, production of industrial raw materials such as cosmetics, perfumes and fuels.

Message to students and young researchers

I would encourage high-school students, undergraduate students and young researchers to join this challenging research project, since those young people will take over the research of the next generation. We are waiting to welcome all of you!


Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chiba University

RIKEN Center for Sustainable Research Science, Metabolomics research group


Transcriptome analysis of medicinal plants

A medicinal plant, red perilla and blue perilla

Blue perilla which irradiated by intense light. The leaves become curly by the light stress.

Ephedra and its pseudocarp. Ephedrine, a representative alkaloid of Ephedra, is used in a number of traditonal and modern medicines.

The health-promoting effects of sulfur-containing components compound, alliin, in garlic,, and the role of newly-identified AsFMO1 in alliin biosynthesis.

Research for the discovery of bioactive natural compounds from plants by bioactivity-guided screening.