Professor Masashi Yanagisawa

Solving the mystery of sleep ~Developing new intervention methods for healthy slumber~


In 1988, as a graduate student at University of Tsukuba, Yanagisawa discovered endothelin, a potent vasoconstrictor peptide from vascular endothelial cells, which sparked an intense research activity in the field. After moving to University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas in 1991 as a young principal investigator, he identified the endothelin-converting enzyme, a metalloprotease that generate the active, mature endothelin peptides. In 1996, he initiated a systematic search for endogenous ligands of “orphan” G protein-coupled receptors, which resulted in his 1998 discovery of orexin, a hypothalamic neuropeptide. He then discovered in 1999 that orexin deficiency causes the sleep disorder narcolepsy. This opened up a new avenue in sleep research, and led to a better understanding of sleep/wake switching mechanisms in the brain. Now, he pulls all his energy to solve the fundamental mechanism for sleep homeostasis which is still remains a mystery as a professor and a director in IIIS.

Major achievements

Funato H., Miyoshi C., Fujiyama T., Kanda T., Sato M., Wang Z., Ma J., Nakane S., Tomita J., Ikkyu A., Kakizaki M., Hotta N., Kanno S., Komiya H., Asano F., Honda T., Kim J.S., Harano K., Muramoto H., Yonezawa T., Mizuno S., Miyazaki S., Connor L., Kumar V., Miura I., Suzuki T., Watanabe A., Abe M., Sugiyama F., Takahashi S., Sakimura K., Hayashi Y., Liu Q., Kume K., Wakana S., Takahashi J.S., Yanagisawa M. Forward genetic analysis of sleep in randomly mutagenized mice. Nature 539: 378-383, 2016

Ogawa, Y., Irukayama-Tomobe, Y., Murakoshi, N., Kiyama, M., Ishikawa, Y., Hosokawa, N., Tominaga, H., Uchida, S., Kimura, S., Kanuka, M., Morita, M., Hamada, M., Takahashi, S., Hayashi, Y., Yanagisawa, M. Peripherally administered orexin improves survival of mice with endotoxin shock. eLife DOI: 10.7554/eLife.21055, 2016

Irukayama-Tomobe, Y., Ogawa, Y., Tominaga, H., Ishikawa, Y., Hosokawa, N., Ambai, S., Kawabe, Y., Uchida, S., Nakajima, R., Saitoh, T., Kanda, T., Vogt, K., Sakurai, T., Nagase, H., Yanagisawa, M. A non-peptide orexin type-2 receptor agonist ameliorates narcolepsy-cataplexy symptoms in mouse models. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1700499114, 2017


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