Ken Nakamura, MD, PhD
Assistant Investigator, Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease

Other Professional Titles

Neurology, University of California, San Francisco


(415) 734-2550


(415) 355-0824


Erica Delin
(415) 734-2516

Areas of Investigation

The Nakamura laboratory has two broad, intertwined objec­tives. The first is to gain insight into the normal physiology of mitochondria and glucose metabolism in the brain, with a particular focus on bioenergetics, mitochondrial dynamics, and quality control in neurons. The second is to understand how disrupting mitochondrial function and metabolism contributes to neurodegenerative diseases, especially Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and mitochondrial disorders, and to use these insights to develop new approaches to target energy metabolism therapeutically.

Lab Focus

Why are substantia nigra DA neurons intrinsically vulnerable to mitochondrial stressors?
How do PD proteins disrupt mitochondrial function and produce neurodegeneration?
How do changes in energy metabolism contribute to the pathogenesis of AD?
What are the mechanisms by which mitochondrial dynamics influence neurodegeneration?
How and why are mitochondria turned over?
How can we restore or even boost energy levels in cells and will this protect against neurodegeneration?


Developed a high-throughput screen to measure ATP in individual cells and identified genetic pathways in¬volved in the regulation of ATP level.
Created new assays to measure ATP requirements of the synaptic vesicle cycle, and showed that mitochondria-based energy failure can occur and cause neuronal dysfunction in a model of neurodegeneration.
Found that vulnerable neurons require mitochondrial fission to both transport mitochondria to the nerve terminal and to maintain ATP levels in this compartment.
Found that synuclein preferentially binds to mitochondria and produces a dramatic increase in mitochondrial fragmentation, revealing a potential mechanism by which synuclein may produce degeneration in PD.

Professional titles

Neurology, University of California, San Francisco


  • Cornell University
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Chicago

Honors and Awards

2016 Jon Stolk Award in Movement Disorders for Young Investigators, American Academy of Neurology
2008 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Scientists
2001 Steven Lukes Memorial Prize, University of Chicago
1999 American Academy of Neurology Extended Neuroscience Award