Takeshi Sakurai

Affiliation:International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine, University of Tsukuba

Research Title


‘ To elucidate physiological roles of neuropeptides, especially related to wakefulness and emotion’‘ To search for novel bioactive neuropeptides ’‘ To elucidate function and structure of sleep/wake systemTo elucidate physiological roles of neuropeptides, especially related to wakefulness and emotion ’

01 Research Summary

A brain is the device that processes huge amount of information via nerve cells called neurons. Various bioactive substances intervene in the exchange of information between neurons. There are two ways for the transmission, via or without synapses, and neurotransmitters play important roles in both processes. Among various kinds of neurotransmitter, our lab is interested in neuropeptides in our brains. We aim to discover and elucidate the function and operation mechanisms of unknown neuropeptides. Neuropeptide is evolutionarily ancient system and deeply related to eating behavior, sleep, emotion, and so on. Along with its academic values, the elucidation of functions of neuropeptides may lead to treatments of various diseases.

Sakurai / Hirano Laboratory

Sakurai / Hirano Laboratory

02 Major achievement

Emi Hasegawa, Ai Miyasaka, Katsuyasu Sakurai, Yoan Cherasse, Yulong Li, Takeshi Sakurai. Rapid eye movement sleep is initiated by basolateral amygdala dopamine signaling in mice. Science. 2022 Mar 4;375(6584):994-1000, 2022

Takahashi TM, Sunagawa GA, Soya S, Abe M, Sakurai K, Ishikawa K, Yanagisawa M, Hama H, Hasegawa E, Miyawaki A, Sakimura K, Takahashi M, Sakurai T. A discrete neuronal circuit induces a hibernation-like state in rodents. Nature. 2020 Jul;583(7814):109-114, 2020


Sakurai T, et al. Orexins and orexin receptors: A family of hypothalamic neuropeptides and G protein-coupled receptors that regulate feeding behavior. Cell 92:573-585, 1998

Sakurai T, Yanagisawa M, Takuwa Y, Miyazaki H, Kimura S, Goto K, Masaki T. Cloning of a cDNA encoding a non-isopetide-selective subtype of the endothelin receptor. Nature 48:732-735, 1990

03 Education/Academic background and major awards

Education/Academic background

1964 Born in Tokyo
1993 Ph.D. Faculty of Medicine, University of Tsukuba
1993 - 1993 Postdoctoral Fellow, Research Fellowship for Young Scientist(JSPS)
1993 - 1999 Lecturer, Faulty of Medicine, University of Tsukuba
1999 - 2004 Associate Professor, Faulty of Medicine, University of Tsukuba
2004 - 2008 Associate Professor, Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences, University of Tsukuba
2008 - 2016 Professor, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kanazawa University
2016 Present Professor, International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine, University of Tsukuba


The 11th Tsukuba Encouragement Prize/ The 14th Ando Momokufu Award/ The 65th Chunichi Cultural Award/ Prizes for Science and Technology, The Commendation for Science and Technology by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT)/The 2nd Shiono Award/ The 32th Tsukuba Prize


Why did you become a scientist?

I somehow started researching and somehow ended up here.

During my fifth year of Medicine in University of Tsukuba, Dr. Yanagisawa, who just discovered endothelin, asked me to join his research, saying that “the interesting part of endothelin research was about to begin.” I wanted to become a doctor at the time, but the research sounded interesting and I decided to try it out for a while; I always thought that I could always go back to my path to be a medical doctor if the research did not go well. I also thought that, since I decided to work on this research project, I wanted to at least achieve something interesting in this field. I had too many sleepless nights, but it paid off in the end when we discovered the molecule structure of endothelin receptor. I got a position of lecturer after I completed my Master’s Degree. I sort of continued from there and ended up where I am now. I somehow forgot about the wish to become a doctor.

What are the characteristics of your lab?


Try not to set too many restrictions on what they wish to do. They are exceptionally talented and I believe that their self-reliance could provide a better output in their research than having myself interfering every step of the way. I set up the goal, but allow them to select any routes he/she likes to reach it. I would, of course, not leave them unsupervised and provide supports and make corrections when necessary; however, I will not do anything that could jeopardize their self-reliance. I try not to make any borders between researchers and students or treat them unequally, and provide a talkative environment.

What are you most interested in lately

Motor sports, photography, and Audio.

Since I was a university student, I went to circuits to drive racing karts and formula cars. I used to participate in gymkhana or other types of auto racing. When my lab was moved to Kanazawa University, there was not much time and no circuits nearby were available, so I started my new hobby, taking photos with cameras. I love playing around with machines so I guess that is why I like cameras as well as cars. I also like music, and it most likely something to do with audio devices.