Centers & Labs

RIKEN Brain Science Institute

Laboratory for Molecular Membrane Neuroscience

Laboratory Head: Yoshio Hirabayashi (Ph.D.)
Yoshio  Hirabayashi(Ph.D.)

In the last decades the importance of lipids in human health and disease has become increasingly evident. Perturbation of the lipid metabolic network is a key factor in the pathogenesis of many common diseases, such as coronary heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Taking into consideration that about halve of the human brain mass are lipids, the strong association of neurodegenerative diseases with alterations of the lipidome come at no surprise. In contrast to the completely sequenced human genome, however, the human lipidome is still poorly defined - in part, due to the enormous diversity of lipids and biosynthetic and metabolic pathways in brain. Additionally, the spatiotemporal dynamics of the lipid composition in cells, tissue and organs represent an enormous challenge, but offer an immense potential for predictive and preventative medicine as a source of novel biomarkers as well as drug targets for new therapies.

To address these shortcomings, my laboratory is focused on:

  • Isolation and identification of novel lipids involved in brain pathogenesis
  • Unraveling the biosynthesis, biological activity of novel lipid and its specific GPCR receptor
  • Developing and optimizing advanced analytical techniques in brain lipid research

To achieve these aims, my laboratory is actively involved in collaboration with experts from Riken with medical background and synthetic chemistry. Due to our strong/long-term collaboration, we recently reported the first bioactive glycolipid, lyso-phosphatidylglucoside actively involved in guiding neuronal positioning in the journal Science (Guy, Nagatsuka et al., Science 2015).

Main Research Field


Related Research Fields

Complex systems / Medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy


  • energy metabolism (glucose and fatty acid)
  • membrane lipids
  • sphingolipid
  • membrane receptor GPCR
  • ER stress and cell survival

Selected Publications

  1. Guy AT, Nagatsuka Y, Ooashi N, Inoue M, Nakata A, Greimel P, Inoue A, Nabetani T, Murayama A, Ohta K, Ito Y, Aoki J, Hirabayashi Y*, Kamiguchi H*. (*Co-corresponding authors).:
    "NEURONAL DEVELOPMENT. Glycerophospholipid regulation of modality-specific sensory axon guidance in the spinal cord"
    Science 349(6251):974-977 (2015). - Research Highlight in Nature Reviews Neuroscience (doi: 10.1038/nrn4035)
  2. Ishibashi Y, Hirabayashi Y.:
    "AMP-activated protein kinase suppresses biosynthesis of glucosylceramide by reducing intracellular sugar nucleotides."
    J Biol Chem. 2015 Jul 17;290(29):18245-60.
  3. Kumagai A, Ando R, Miyatake H, Greimel P, Kobayashi T, Hirabayashi Y, Shimogori T, Miyawaki A.:
    "Abilirubin-inducible fluorescent protein from eel muscle"
    Cell 153(7), 1602-1611 (2013).
  4. Kim YJ, Sano T, Nabetani T, Asano Y, Hirabayashi Y.:
    "GPRC5B Activates Obesity-Associated Inflammatory Signaling in Adipocytes"
    Sci Signal 5(251), (2012).
  5. Kohyama-Koganeya A, Kim YJ, Miura M, Hirabayashi Y.:
    "A Drosophila orphan G protein-coupled receptor BOSS functions as a glucose-responding receptor: Loss of boss causes abnormal energy metabolism"
    Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 105(40), 15328-15333 (2008).
  6. Nagatsuka Y., Hra-Yokoyama, M, Kasama T, Takekoshi M, Maeda F, Ihara S, Fujiwara S, Ohshima E, Ishii K, Kobayashi T, Shimizu K, Hirabayashi Y.:
    "Carbohydrate-dependent signaling from the phosphatidylglucoside-based microdomain induces granulocytic differentiation of HL60 cells"
    Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 100, 7454-7459 (2003).
  7. Furuya S, Tabata T, Mitoma J, Yamada K, Yamasaki M, Makino A, Yamamoto T, Watanabe M, Kano M, Hirabayashi Y.:
    "L-serine and glycine serve as major astroglia-derived trophic factors for cerebellar Purkinje neurons"
    Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 97, 11528-11533 (2000).
  8. Kanamori A, Nakayama J, Fukuda MN, Stallcup WB, Sasaki K, Fukuda M, Hirabayashi Y.:
    "Expression cloning and characterization of a cDNA encoding a novel membrane protein required for the formation of O-acetylated ganglioside: a putative acetyl-CoA transporter"
    Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 94, 2897-2902 (1997).
  9. Ichikawa S, Sakiyama H, Suzuki G, Hidari KI, Hirabayashi Y.:
    "Expression cloning of a cDNA for human ceramide glucosyltransferase that catalyzes the first glycosylation step of glycosphingolipid synthesis"
    Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 93, 4638-4643 (1996).
  10. Ichikawa S, Nakajo N, Sakiyama H, Hirabayashi Y.:
    "A mouse B16 melanoma mutant deficient in glycolipids"
    Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 91, 2703-2707 (1994).

Lab Members

Principal Investigator

Yoshio Hirabayashi
Laboratory Head

Core Members

Akiko Yamaji
Senior Research Scientist
Yeon-Jeong Kim
Research Scientist
Tomoko Sayano
Research Scientist
Hisako Akiyama
Research Scientist
Hui-Hsing Hung
Research Scientist
Yoko Ohashi
Research Consultant
Yasuko Nagatsuka
Research Consultant
Emi Ito
Technical Staff I
Reiko Fujinawa
Technical Staff I
Mitsuko Ide
Technical Staff II
Hiroko Yagame