Susumu Tonegawa

Susumu Tonegawa is a Japanese molecular biologist who won the 1987 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for his discoveries concerning the manner in which the immune system generates a diverse repertoire of antibodies. Tonegawa earned his bachelor’s degree in biology at the Kyoto University and his doctorate at the University of California, San Diego in 1969.


Being unable to prolong his stay in the USA due to the expiry of his visa, Tonegawa continued his work at the Basel Institute for Immunology in Switzerland. Even though he was not very familiar with immunology when he started working, Tonegawa managed to find an answer to one of the questions that have been puzzling immunologists for a long time – the way human body with such a limited number of genes produces such a vide variety of antibodies. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for this discovery.

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Biologist BIOLOGIST (Antibody diversity)
Susumu Tonegawa
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1982 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize

1987 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine

Selected publications:

Tsien, J.Z., Huerta, P.T., and Tonegawa, S. The essential role of hippocampal CA1 NMDA receptor-dependent synaptic plasticity in spatial memory.  Cell 87, 1327-1338 (1996).

Nakazawa, K., Quirk, M.C., Chitwood, R.A., Watanabe, M., Yeckel, M.F., Sun, L.D., Kato, A., Carr, C.A., Johnston, D., Wilson, M.A., and Tonegawa, S. Requirement for hippocampal CA3 NMDA receptors in associative memory recall.  Science 297:211-218 (2002).

Miyakawa, T., Leiter, L.M., Gerber, D.J., Gainetdinov, R.R., Sotnikova, T.D., Zeng, H., Caron, M.G., and Tonegawa, S. Conditional calcineurin knockout mice exhibit multiple abnormal behaviors related to schizophrenia.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 100:8987-8992 (2003).

Kelleher, R.J., Govindarajan, A., Jung, H.-Y., Kang, H., and Tonegawa, S. Translational control by MAPK signaling in long-term synaptic plasticity and memory.  Cell 115:467-479 (2004).

Nakazawa, K., McHugh, T.J., Wilson, M.A., and Tonegawa, S. NMDA receptors, place cells and hippocampal spatial memory.  Nature Neuroscience Reviews 5:361-372 (2004).

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    RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at MIT


    RIKEN Brain Science Institute (BSI)