Kunie Yoshinaga-Sakurai is a postdoctoral associate under Distinguished University Professor Barry Rosen. She joined the Rosen lab in 2017 where her research focuses on mechanisms of arsenic toxicity by in vitro analysis with human cells. More recently her studies have expanded into arsenic neurotoxicity and the relationship with the expression of As(III) S-adenosylmethionine methyltransferase (AS3MT) in neuronal cells.
Yoshinaga-Sakurai has been analyzing the mechanism of arsenic cytotoxicity in various human cells, especially neuronal cells in the brain. She determined that neurons are the most sensitive to both inorganic As(III) and MAs(III) compared to other brain cell types such as astrocytes, and microglia, and brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMECs), and that MAs(III) is considerably more toxic than As(III). She determined AS3MT (As(III) S-adenosylmethionine methyltransferase) which is the enzyme that transforms As(III) into highly toxic MAs(III), is expressed in neurons, astrocytes, and microglia but not in BMECs, and found that cell types that express AS3MT methylate As(III). The results suggested that arsenic toxicity is correlated in part with uptake of MAs(III) produced in other tissues, and in part due to endogenous methylation by AS3MT in brain cells