Tsuneko Okazaki

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Tsuneko Okazaki
Tsuneko Okazaki
Born (1933-06-07) 7 June 1933 (age 87)
Alma materNagoya University
Known fordiscovering Okazaki fragments
Spouse(s)Reiji Okazaki
Scientific career
Fieldsmolecular biology
InstitutionsWashington University, Stanford University, Nagoya University, Fujita Health University, Chromo Research, Inc.

Tsuneko Okazaki (岡崎 恒子, Okazaki Tsuneko, born June 7, 1933) is a Japanese scientist who, along with her husband, discovered Okazaki fragments.[1] Okazaki fragments contributed to the understanding of DNA replication. Dr. Tsuneko Okazaki has continued to be involved in academia, contributing to more advancements in DNA research.

Early life and education[edit]

Tsuneko Okazaki was born in the Aichi Prefecture of Japan in 1933.[2] She graduated from Aichi Prefectural Asahigaoka Senior High School. During her undergraduate years, she studied biology at Nagoya University School of Science.[3] She graduated with her PhD from Nagoya University School of Science in 1956,[4] which was also the year that she met her husband, Reiji Okazaki. They married that same year and soon after, they joined their research work and laboratories.[3]

Work leading to and discovery of Okazaki Fragments[edit]

Tsuneko and Reiji Okazaki's early research consisted of studying DNA synthesis and specific nucleotide characteristics in frog eggs and sea urchins.[3] This work led to the discovery of thymidine-diphosphate rhamnose, a sugar linked nucleotide, which then opened up the doors for them to work in the U.S. They worked at Washington University and Stanford University in the labs of J. L. Strominger and Arthur Kornberg, respectively, where there was a lot more availability of resources to further their research.[3] Years later, after much research done in both the U.S and Japan, in 1968, Tsuneko and Reiji published their breakthrough findings on Okazaki fragments in PNAS.[5] After Reiji Okazaki's early death from Hiroshima-induced leukemia in 1975, Tsuneko continued her research and moved on to proving the structure of the RNA primer associated with Okazaki fragments.[6]

Additional research contributions[edit]

Tsuneko has continued to be involved in different research projects up to this day, mainly investigating different aspects of DNA. She has served as head of laboratories, lead academic supervisor of students, and as a significant intellectual contributor. Specifically, her contributions have been on research done on revealing hGCMa as a placenta-specific transcription regulator, possibly involved in the expression of multiple placenta-specific genes. She contributed to research on the human centromere protein B found to induce translational positioning of nucleosomes on α-satellite sequences.[7] She worked on understanding the genomic regulation of HLA-G and how the presence of a LINE1 gene silencer may explain the limited expression of HLA-G.[8] She also contributed to the research on mice with characteristics of down syndrome in order to understand the genotype-phenotype characteristics of down syndrome in humans.[9]

Career involvements[edit]

Tsuneko was an associate professor in molecular biology at the School of Science in Nagoya University from 1967 to 1983. She held this position until she became a lead professor from 1983 to 1997. In 1997, she moved to the Institute of Comprehensive Medical Science, Fujita Health University, where she was a professor for five years and then became a visiting professor until 2008. Additionally, throughout the years of 2004 to 2007, her main job was in the Stockholm office, where she was the director of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. She was also CEO/president and director of Chromo Research Inc. from 2008 to 2015.[3]

Family life[edit]

In 1963, after coming back from conducting research at Washington and Stanford University along with her husband, Tsuneko had her first child. She then had her second child in 1973. Due to low nursery care in Japan at the time, Tsuneko had difficulty finding help to take care of her children, as she was working full-time with her research. She was part of a citizen's campaign where she marched for more availability of child-care support.[5] Reiji Okazaki died in 1975, but Tsuneko continued working to complete the research they were working on.


Tsuneko was awarded the L'Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science in 2000.[10]

She was also awarded the Medal with Purple Ribbon in 2000, the Order of the Sacred Treasure, [and] Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon in 2008.[11]

In 2015, Nagoya University created the Tsuneko and Reiji Okazaki Award, "in honor of the spirit and legacy of Professors Okazaki."[12]

In 2015, she was elected as a Person of Cultural Merit.[13]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Willingham EJ (2010). The Complete Idiot's Guide to College Biology. Penguin. ISBN 978-1-59257-848-1. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  2. ^ (in Japanese)"『岡崎フラグメントと私』岡崎 恒子 | サイエンティスト・ライブラリー | JT生命誌研究館". サイエンティスト・ライブラリー | JT生命誌研究館. Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  3. ^ a b c d e Okazaki T (May 2017). "Days weaving the lagging strand synthesis of DNA - A personal recollection of the discovery of Okazaki fragments and studies on discontinuous replication mechanism". Proceedings of the Japan Academy. Series B, Physical and Biological Sciences. 93 (5): 322–338. doi:10.2183/pjab.93.020. PMC 5489436. PMID 28496054.
  4. ^ Shmaefsky B (2006). Biotechnology 101. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313335280.
  5. ^ Okazaki R, Okazaki T, Sakabe K, Sugimoto K, Sugino A (February 1968). "Mechanism of DNA chain growth. I. Possible discontinuity and unusual secondary structure of newly synthesized chains". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 59 (2): 598–605. doi:10.1073/pnas.59.2.598. PMC 224714. PMID 4967086.
  6. ^ "Tsuneko & Reiji Okazaki Award - Okazaki Fragment". www.itbm.nagoya-u.ac.jp. Retrieved 2018-05-22.
  7. ^ Suzuki N, Itou T, Hasegawa Y, Okazaki T, Ikeno M (March 2010). "Cell to cell transfer of the chromatin-packaged human beta-globin gene cluster". Nucleic Acids Research. 38 (5): e33. doi:10.1093/nar/gkp1168. PMC 2836578. PMID 20007595.
  8. ^ Ikeno M, Suzuki N, Kamiya M, Takahashi Y, Kudoh J, Okazaki T (November 2012). "LINE1 family member is negative regulator of HLA-G expression". Nucleic Acids Research. 40 (21): 10742–52. doi:10.1093/nar/gks874. PMC 3510505. PMID 23002136.
  9. ^ Miyamoto K, Suzuki N, Sakai K, Asakawa S, Okazaki T, Kudoh J, Ikeno M, Shimizu N (April 2014). "A novel mouse model for Down syndrome that harbor a single copy of human artificial chromosome (HAC) carrying a limited number of genes from human chromosome 21". Transgenic Research. 23 (2): 317–29. doi:10.1007/s11248-013-9772-x. PMID 24293126. S2CID 10330769.
  10. ^ (2015-04-05) DNA researcher Okazaki wins int'l award for female scientists., the Free Library, Retrieved 2017-10-31.
  11. ^ "My Life & Okazaki Fragments | Features | Nagoya University Academic Research & Industry-Academia-Government Collaboration". Nagoya University Academic Research & Industry-Academia-Government Collaboration (in Japanese). Retrieved 2018-05-22.
  12. ^ "Tsuneko & Reiji Okazaki Award". www.itbm.nagoya-u.ac.jp. Retrieved 2017-10-31.
  13. ^ "T.O.L.講義:2015度の文化功労者に選ばれた、名古屋大学名誉教授 岡崎恒子先生による特別講義を実施しました!". isen.ac.jp. archive.is. 2015-11-13. Archived from the original on 2016-03-15. Retrieved 2017-10-31.