Yukiko Yamashita

Yukiko Yamashita

Professor of Biology; Core Member, Whitehead Institute; Co-Chair, Biology Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Yukiko Yamashita studies two fundamental aspects of multicellular organisms: how cell fates are diversified via asymmetric cell division, and how genetic information is transmitted through generations via the germline.





Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research


Donna Hicks



Assistant Phone


  • PhD, 1999, Kyoto University
  • BS, Biology, 1994, Kyoto University

Research Summary

Two remarkable feats of multicellular organisms are generation of many distinct cell types via asymmetric cell division and transmission of the germline genome to the next generation, essentially in eternity. Studying these processes using the Drosophila male germline as a model system has led us to venture into new areas of study, such as functions of satellite DNA, a 'genomic junk,' and how they might be involved in speciation.


  • Tsuneko and Reiji Okazaki Award, 2016
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Investigator, 2014
  • MacArthur Fellow, 2011
  • Women in Cell Biology Early Career Award, American Society for Cell Biology, 2009
  • Searle Scholar, 2008

Recent Publications

  1. RNA polymerase II-mediated rDNA transcription mediates rDNA copy number expansion in Drosophila. Watase, GJ, Yamashita, YM. 2024. PLoS Genet 20, e1011136.
    doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1011136PMID:38758955
  2. Running the gauntlet: challenges to genome integrity in spermiogenesis. Kitaoka, M, Yamashita, YM. 2024. Nucleus 15, 2339220.
    doi: 10.1080/19491034.2024.2339220PMID:38594652
  3. Insulin signaling regulates R2 retrotransposon expression to orchestrate transgenerational rDNA copy number maintenance. Nelson, JO, Slicko, A, Raz, AA, Yamashita, YM. 2024. bioRxiv , .
    doi: 10.1101/2024.02.28.582629PMID:38464041
  4. rDNA magnification is a unique feature of germline stem cells. Nelson, JO, Kumon, T, Yamashita, YM. 2023. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 120, e2314440120.
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.2314440120PMID:37967216
  5. The implications of satellite DNA instability on cellular function and evolution. Flynn, JM, Yamashita, YM. 2024. Semin Cell Dev Biol 156, 152-159.
    doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2023.10.005PMID:37852904
  6. A maternally programmed intergenerational mechanism enables male offspring to make piRNAs from Y-linked precursor RNAs in Drosophila. Venkei, ZG, Gainetdinov, I, Bagci, A, Starostik, MR, Choi, CP, Fingerhut, JM, Chen, P, Balsara, C, Whitfield, TW, Bell, GW et al.. 2023. Nat Cell Biol 25, 1495-1505.
    doi: 10.1038/s41556-023-01227-4PMID:37723298
  7. Asymmetric Stem Cell Division and Germline Immortality. Yamashita, YM. 2023. Annu Rev Genet 57, 181-199.
    doi: 10.1146/annurev-genet-022123-040039PMID:37552892
  8. Why Ys are not necessarily toxic. Yamashita, YM. 2023. Nat Ecol Evol 7, 1177-1178.
    doi: 10.1038/s41559-023-02079-9PMID:37308702
  9. The retrotransposon R2 maintains Drosophila ribosomal DNA repeats. Nelson, JO, Slicko, A, Yamashita, YM. 2023. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 120, e2221613120.
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.2221613120PMID:37252996
  10. Analysis of Gene Expression Patterns and RNA Localization by Fluorescence in Situ Hybridization in Whole Mount Drosophila Testes. Fingerhut, JM, Yamashita, YM. 2023. Methods Mol Biol 2666, 15-28.
    doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-3191-1_2PMID:37166654




Photo credit: Courtesy of the University of Michigan