Shinya Inoué

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Shinya Inoué (井上 信也, Inoue Shin'ya, January 5, 1921[1] – September 30, 2019) was a Japanese American biophysicist and cell biologist, a member of the National Academy of Sciences. His research field was the visualization of dynamic processes within living cells using light microscopy.


Inoué 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.[2] 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), Inoué 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.[3] He also was the first to develop video microscopy, and wrote a major textbook on the subject.[4] Consistent with Inoué'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.

Personal life[edit]

Inoué was born in London, England, the son of a diplomat. He attended Tokyo Metropolitan University, and went to Princeton University for his graduate studies.[5]

Inoué died in East Falmouth, Massachusetts on September 30, 2019.[6]




  1. ^ Davidson, Michael W. "Molecular Expressions". Florida State University. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  2. ^ Inoue S (1953). "Polarization optical studies of the mitotic spindle 1. The demonstration of spindle fibers in living cells". Chromosoma. 5: 487–500. doi:10.1007/bf01271498.
  3. ^ Inoue S, Sato H (1967). "Cell motility by labile association of molecules. The nature of mitotic spindle fibers and their role in chromosome movement". Journal of General Physiology. 50: 259–292. doi:10.1085/jgp.50.6.259. PMC 2225745.
  4. ^ Inoue S, Spring K (1997). Video Microscopy: the Fundamentals. Plenum Press, New York.
  5. ^ Gouveia, Aaron (June 11, 2010), "Cape scientist earns top award", Cape Cod Times
  6. ^ Spiro, Mary (October 1, 2019), In Memoriam: Biophysicist, cell biologist Shinya Inoué, 98, American Society for Cell Biology
  7. ^ Past Recipients, International Prize for Biology
  • "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[edit]