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Tsuneko Okazaki
Japanese scientist

Tsuneko Okazaki

Tsuneko Okazaki
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Japanese scientist
Is Biologist Scientist Geneticist Molecular biologist Professor Educator
From Japan
Field Academia Biology Science
Gender female
Birth 7 June 1933, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Chūbu region, Japan
Age 89 years
The details (from wikipedia)


Tsuneko Okazaki (岡崎 恒子, Okazaki Tsuneko, born June 7, 1933) is a Japanese scientist who, along with her husband, discovered Okazaki fragments. 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

Tsuneko Okazaki was born in the Aichi Prefecture of Japan in 1933. She was in sixth grade when World War Two ended in 1945. The new Japanese constitution allowed women to attend the same colleges as men and Okazaki was part of the first generation of women to take advantage of this opportunity. During her undergraduate years, she studied biology at Nagoya University School of Science. She graduated with her PhD from Nagoya University School of Science in 1956, 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.

Work leading to and discovery of Okazaki Fragments

Tsuneko and Reiji Okazaki’s early research consisted of studying DNA synthesis and specific nucleotide characteristics in frog eggs and sea urchins. 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. 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. After Reiji Okazaki’s death, Tsuneko continued her research and moved on to proving the structure of the RNA primer associated with Okazaki fragments.

Additional research contributions

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. 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. 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.

Career involvements

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 then 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.

Family life

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 passed away 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.

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.

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

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

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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