Yoji Arata, 1934-2019

ISMAR mourns the passing of our colleague Yoji Arata, a leading figure in biomolecular NMR.  The following tribute to Prof. Arata was written by Masatsune Kainosho:

Prof. Yoji Arata, an ISMAR Fellow, passed away on March 5, 2019, at the age of 84. Yoji was born March 27, 1934, in Okayama, Japan, graduated from University of Tokyo in 1956 and received his Ph.D. degree in 1963. Meanwhile, he joined the research group of the late Prof. Shizuo Fujiwara in University of Electro-Communications as an assistant associate and then in University of Tokyo. During these early days of NMR research in Japan, he was enchanted with this new spectroscopy, and pursued a lifelong interest in NMR applications. After spending two years from 1971 in Prof. Jardetzky’s group at Stanford as a postdoc, he wanted to resume NMR research of biologically interesting proteins although the research environments in Japan at that time were not ideal until the mid-80’s.

   Yoji was appointed a professor of the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tokyo University, in 1986. He immediately initiated NMR studies on proteins, pursuing a lifelong interest in structural biology of large proteins until his retirement in 1994. During this relatively short period, his group successfully developed a stable-isotope labeling method to characterize the structures and dynamics of giant immunoglobulin G (IgG) proteins, with molecular weights over 150 kDa in solution. These studies have contributed greatly to advances in the structural and dynamic elucidation of very large proteins in solution and characterization of their associated biological functions. The research endeavor pioneered by Yoji has been continued by his colleagues, i.e., structural biology research on glycoproteins by Prof. Koichi Kato (National Institutes of Natural Sciences) and on membrane proteins by Prof. Ichio Shimada (Tokyo University). The excellent accomplishments by his colleagues greatly contribute to NMR methodology for performing structural characterizations of proteins with large molecular weights.

Yoji served as one of the organizing members of the International Symposium on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, held in Tokyo in 1965, which was the first ISMAR Conference, and also served as one of the organizing committee members at the 8th International Conference on Magnetic Resonance in Biological Systems (ICMRBS), held in Nara, Japan in 1978.  He served as the first president of the NMR Society of Japan from 2002 to 2004 after it was founded in 2002, and provided the guiding principle of facilitating scientific interactions among the NMR communities in East Asian countries.