Anatomy and Embryology

  • Professor: Masahiko Watanabe
  • Lecturer: Miwako Yamasaki
  • Assistant Professor: Taisuke Miyazaki
  • Assistant Professor: Kohtaro Konno
  • Assistant Professor: Motokazu Uchigashima
  • Phone: +81-11-706-5030
  • FAX: +81-11-706-5031
  • E-mail: aande
Department of ANATOMY II was first settled in 1922 in Hokkaido Imperial University School of Medicine, and renamed into Anatomy & Development Division, Department of Anatomy in 2003. Masahiko Watanabe is the 5th Professor of this unit since 1998, promotes anatomical education and research with three Assistant Professors, Masahiro Fukaya (2003-), Taisuke Miyazaki (2003-), and Miwako Yamasaki (2006-) and also with graduate and undergraduate students. This division was so named to represent the subject name we undertake, i.e., Anatomy & Development (3 credits) in School of Medicine.


In research, we pursue molecular and cellular mechanisms for synaptic circuit development through neuroanatomical analyses using gene-manipulated mice (we call this MORPHOLOGICAL BIOLOGY). We are particularly interested in how synaptic circuits are modified into functional and mature ones during critical period in an activity- or experience-dependent manner. We are also producing specific antibodies to apply them to immunohistochemical localization of molecules regulating synaptic transmission, plasticity, and development (MOLECULAR ANATOMY). Synaptic circuits To perform the MORPHOLOGICAL BIOLOGICAL and MOLECULAR ANATOMICAL research, we employ in situ hybridization, immunofluorescence with confocal laser scanning microscopy, conventional electron microscopy, and preembedding and postembedding immunogold microscopy. Neural regions of our interest are the cerebellum, hippocampus, and striatum. Molecules of our interest are glutamate receptors (AMPAR, NMDAR, and mGluR), glutamate transporters (GLAST and GLT1), and other signaling molecules (Gq protein-coupled receptor cascade, muscarinic ACh receptor, dopamine receptor, adenosine A2A receptor, endocannabinoids). One of the characteristic features in our lab is the intensive collaboration with other researcher fields, such as electrophysiology, molecular neurobiology, and developmental technology.


In education for School of Medicine, we are teaching 100 students Practice of Human Gross Anatomy (6 credits) and Anatomy & Development (3 credits). These subjects are now given to students in the 1st semester (April-May) of the 3rd grade, but from 2009 will be to those in the 2nd semester (October-February) of the 2nd grade. In Graduate School, we teach how to perform neuroanatomical research, as noted above. We also take part in Graduate Course for Developmental Brain Science in Hokkaido University.

International Activities

International Conferences:
1. Watanabe M: Coordinated molecular organization of 2-arachidonoyl glycerol-mediated endocannabinoid signaling triggered by mGluR activation. 6th International Meeting on Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors. Sicily (Italy), September 14-19, 2008.
2. Watanabe, M: Glutamate transporters provide a 'winner-takes-more' strategy to activity-dependent synapse refinement. The 38th Seiriken/Soukendai International Conference. Okazaki (Japan), March 17-19, 2008.
3. Watanabe, M: Anatomical demonstration of multiple climbing fiber innervation in the cerebellum deficient for synaptic signaling molecules. The 4th Asia-Panpacific International Congress of Anatomy, Kusadasi (Turkey), September 10, 2005.
1 Lab members. Dr. Miyazaki, Prof. Watanabe, Dr. Yamasaki (from the left in the lower), Secretary Ishimura, Dr. Fukaya, graduate student Emoto (upper).
2 Cerebellar Purkinje cell, our main research target in the molecular anatomy and morphological biology.
3 Competitive synaptic development in Purkinje cells, as revealed from morphological analyses on GluRd2-knockout mice.
4 Postsynaptic localization of GluRd2 in Purkinje cell synapses.
Fig1 Fig2 Fig3 Fig4
International Collaboration:
Prof. Susumu Tonegawa in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), 1995-
Prof. Peter Somogyi in Oxford University (UK), 2000-
Dr. Rafael Lujan in Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha (Spain) 2005-
Dr. Istvan Katona in Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Hungary) 2005-
Prof. David Linden in Johns Hopkins University (USA), 2006-

Selected Publications

1. Takasaki C, Okada R, Mitani A, Fukaya, M., Yamasaki M, Fujihara Y, ShirakawaT, Tanaka K, Watanabe M. Glutamate transporters regulate lesion-induced period plasticity in the developing somatosensory cortex. J. Neurosci, 28:4995-5006, 2008.
2. Uchigashima M, Narushima M, Fukaya M, Katona I, Kano M, Watanabe M: Subcellular arrangement of molecules for 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol-mediated retrograde signaling and its physiological contribution to synaptic modulation in the striatum. J. Neurosci., 27:3663-3676, 2007.
3. Yoshida T, Fukaya M, Uchigashima M, Kamiya H, Kano M, Watanabe M: Localization of diacylglycerol lipase-a around postsynaptic spine suggests close proximity between production site of an endocannabinoid, 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol, and presynaptic cannabinoid CB1 receptor. J. Neurosci. 26: 4740-4751, 2006.
4. Miura E, Iijima T, Yuzaki M, Watanabe M: Distinct expression of Cbln family mRNAs in developing and adult mouse brains. Eur. J. Neurosci. 24:750-760, 2006.
5. Miyazaki M, Hashimoto K, Shin H-S, Kano M, Watanabe M: P/Q-type Ca2+ channel a1A regulates synaptic competition on developing cerebellar Purkinje cells J. Neurosci. 24:1734-1743, 2004.
6. Fukaya M, Kato A, Lovett C, Tonegawa S, Watanabe M: Retention of NMDA receptor NR2 subunits in the lumen of endoplasmic reticulum in targeted NR1 knockout mice. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 100:4855-4860, 2003.
7. Yamasaki M, Yamada K, Furuya S, Mitoma J, Hirabayashi Y, Watanabe M: 3-phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (3PGDH), a key enzyme of L-serine biosynthesis, is preferentially expressed in the radial glia/astrocyte lineage and olfactory ensheathing glia in the mouse brain. J. Neurosci. 21:7691-7704, 2001.