Susumu Tonegawa

Susumu Tonegawa

Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience; Director, RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics

Susumu Tonegawa investigates the biological underpinnings of learning and memory in rodents.





Liam Brenner



Assistant Phone


PhD 1968, University of California, San Diego

Research Summary

We are interested in the molecular, cellular and neural circuit mechanisms underlying learning and memory in rodents. We generate genetically engineered mice, and analyze them through multiple methods including molecular and cellular biology, electrophysiology, microscopic imaging, optogenetic engineering, and behavioral studies. Ultimately, we aim to detect the effects of our manipulations at multiple levels in the brain — deducing which behaviors or cognitions are causally linked to specific processes and events taking place at the molecular, cellular, and neuronal circuit levels.


  • The Nobel Foundation, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1987
  • Albert and Mary Lasker Award in Basic Research, 1987
  • National Academy of Sciences, Member, 1986

Key Publications

  1. Antagonistic negative and positive neurons of the basolateral amygdala. Kim, J, Pignatelli, M, Xu, S, Itohara, S, Tonegawa, S. 2016. Nat. Neurosci. 19, 1636-1646.
    doi: 10.1038/nn.4414PMID: 27749826
  2. Memory retrieval by activating engram cells in mouse models of early Alzheimer's disease. Roy, DS, Arons, A, Mitchell, TI, Pignatelli, M, Ryan, TJ, Tonegawa, S. 2016. Nature 531, 508-12.
    doi: 10.1038/nature17172PMID: 26982728
  3. Optogenetic stimulation of a hippocampal engram activates fear memory recall. Liu, X, Ramirez, S, Pang, PT, Puryear, CB, Govindarajan, A, Deisseroth, K, Tonegawa, S. 2012. Nature 484, 381-5.
    doi: 10.1038/nature11028PMID: 22441246
  4. A tissue-specific transcription enhancer element is located in the major intron of a rearranged immunoglobulin heavy chain gene. Gillies, SD, Morrison, SL, Oi, VT, Tonegawa, S. 1983. Cell 33, 717-28.
    PMID: 6409417
  5. Somatic generation of antibody diversity. Tonegawa, S. 1983. Nature 302, 575-81.
    PMID: 6300689

Recent Publications

  1. Locus coeruleus input to hippocampal CA3 drives single-trial learning of a novel context. Wagatsuma, A, Okuyama, T, Sun, C, Smith, LM, Abe, K, Tonegawa, S. 2018. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 115, E310-E316.
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.1714082115PMID: 29279390
  2. Silent memory engrams as the basis for retrograde amnesia. Roy, DS, Muralidhar, S, Smith, LM, Tonegawa, S. 2017. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 114, E9972-E9979.
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.1714248114PMID: 29078397
  3. Dorsal Raphe Serotonergic Neurons Control Intertemporal Choice under Trade-off. Xu, S, Das, G, Hueske, E, Tonegawa, S. 2017. Curr. Biol. 27, 3111-3119.e3.
    doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.09.008PMID: 28988863
  4. Direct Medial Entorhinal Cortex Input to Hippocampal CA1 Is Crucial for Extended Quiet Awake Replay. Yamamoto, J, Tonegawa, S. 2017. Neuron 96, 217-227.e4.
    doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.09.017PMID: 28957670
  5. Tagging activated neurons with light. Roy, DS, Okuyama, T, Tonegawa, S. 2017. Nat. Biotechnol. 35, 827-828.
    doi: 10.1038/nbt.3954PMID: 28898205
  6. Distinct Neural Circuits for the Formation and Retrieval of Episodic Memories. Roy, DS, Kitamura, T, Okuyama, T, Ogawa, SK, Sun, C, Obata, Y, Yoshiki, A, Tonegawa, S. 2017. Cell 170, 1000-1012.e19.
    doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.07.013PMID: 28823555
  7. Engrams and circuits crucial for systems consolidation of a memory. Kitamura, T, Ogawa, SK, Roy, DS, Okuyama, T, Morrissey, MD, Smith, LM, Redondo, RL, Tonegawa, S. 2017. Science 356, 73-78.
    doi: 10.1126/science.aam6808PMID: 28386011
  8. Basolateral to Central Amygdala Neural Circuits for Appetitive Behaviors. Kim, J, Zhang, X, Muralidhar, S, LeBlanc, SA, Tonegawa, S. 2017. Neuron 93, 1464-1479.e5.
    doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.02.034PMID: 28334609
  9. Antagonistic negative and positive neurons of the basolateral amygdala. Kim, J, Pignatelli, M, Xu, S, Itohara, S, Tonegawa, S. 2016. Nat. Neurosci. 19, 1636-1646.
    doi: 10.1038/nn.4414PMID: 27749826
  10. Ventral CA1 neurons store social memory. Okuyama, T, Kitamura, T, Roy, DS, Itohara, S, Tonegawa, S. 2016. Science 353, 1536-1541.
    doi: 10.1126/science.aaf7003PMID: 27708103
More Publications



Photo credit: Webb Chapell