Molecular Genetics of the Immune and Nervous Systems--Antibody Diversity and Memory Engrams
by Susumu Tonegawa
(MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)
12 October 2023 17:00
Mendel Lectures take place in Mendel´s refectory in the Mendel Museum Brno
Susumu Tonegawa received his B. Sc. from Kyoto University and his Ph.D. in molecular biology from University of California, San Diego (UCSD). He then undertook postdoctoral work at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, CA, before starting his own lab at the Basel Institute for Immunology in Basel, Switzerland, where he made his landmark discoveries in immunology. Tonegawa was the sole recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1987 for “his discovery of the genetic principle for generation of antibody diversity.” Tonegawa switched his field of research to brain science and founded MIT’s Center for Learning and Memory in 1994, which was renamed The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory in 2002. Using advanced techniques of gene manipulation, Tonegawa has been unraveling the molecular, cellular and neural circuit mechanisms that underlie learning and memory. Tonegawa was the first to introduce the gene knockout technology to the mammalian behavioral brain research. Tonegawa demonstrated synaptic plasticity is crucial for memory formation, first by knocking out the αCaMKII gene and subsequently by restricting the knockout of NMDA receptors to just one type of neurons, the hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons. Tonegawa was also the first to apply the optogenetics to memory research and discovered the molecular and cellular level substrate for memory termed engrams. Most recently Tonegawa found overlapping engrams generated across multiple related experiences represent the generalizable abstract knowledge (schema or semantic memory). His studies have broad implications for psychiatric and neurologic diseases. Tonegawa is currently the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Principal Investigator of the RIKEN-MIT Laboratory for Neural Circuit Genetics at MIT, as well as a RIKEN Fellow. He is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at MIT. Tonegawa is a Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Tonegawa’s other numerous honors include: the Order of Culture (Bunka-Kunsho) bestowed by Japan’s Emperor, the Albert and Mary Lasker Award granted by the Lasker Foundation in the US, the Gairdner Foundation International Award granted by the Gairdner Foundation of Canada, the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize of Columbia University in the U.S., and the Robert Koch Prize granted by the Koch Foundation of Germany.