UNH Student Discovers New Type of Pituitary Cell in Lamprey


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Monday, September 11, 2017
Tim Marquis

Tim Marquis, who graduated in 2015 with his bachelor’s degree in biomedical science from the University of New Hampshire, discovered a novel pituitary cell type of the lamprey as an undergraduate at UNH while working in the lab of Dr. Stacia Sower, a researcher with the NH Agricultural Experiment Station and professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular biology.

DURHAM, N.H. – Tim Marquis, a 2015 graduate of the University of New Hampshire with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical science, has discovered a novel pituitary cell type in the lamprey.

Now in his second year of medical school at the University of Connecticut, Marquis discovered the cell while working in the lab of Stacia Sower, a researcher with the NH Agricultural Experiment Station and professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular biology. Studying the lamprey has allowed scientists to better understand human physiology and disease, and develop breakthrough medical treatments for diseases, such as cancer.

“We used a variety of cutting edge, highly technical and specialized research techniques to reveal the different cell types of the lamprey pituitary,” said Marquis. “In the process, we discovered a novel pituitary cell type that we have named the proto-glycotrope. Our study provides important new insights into the neuroendocrinology in lampreys relative to other vertebrates, based on the pituitary cell types that are present, including the novel proto-glycotropes.”

The research project Marquis conducted is an extension of nearly four decades of lamprey research by Sower and those who have been associated with the Anadromous Fish and Aquatic Invertebrate Research Laboratory. The lab has made significant advances in knowledge about the structure and function of the hypothalamic (part of the brain) and pituitary hormones along with respective receptors.

In 2003, the Sower laboratory discovered a novel brain hypothalamic hormone called lamprey gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH)–III (lGnRH-III). GnRH is best known as the major regulator of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis controlling reproduction across all vertebrates. There are variant forms of GnRH in different species of vertebrates. Mammals have one GnRH while lampreys have three GnRHs. GnRH-III of the lamprey was shown to be able to prevent the spread of prostate cancers cells. More recent studies have shown it can prevent the spread of melanoma.  

In addition, lampreys are considered a species of concern in New Hampshire. They play a vital role in the ecology of coastal rivers, estuaries and the ocean. This research can contribute to an understanding of the lampreys to assist state and federal agencies with managing the lamprey population.

“This research represents an absolutely stunning job,” said Sower. “The research done by Tim was incredibly extensive using the techniques of in situ hybridization, histology, immunohistochemistry and transmission electron microscopy. His first steps included learning these challenging techniques in depth and the neuroanatomy of the lamprey -- not a minor task by any means. This work is of such high caliber and equivalent to at least a doctoral thesis.”

Marquis worked for five years in Sower’s lab, starting as a freshman and extending his time with one extra year as a technician in her lab. “He was the recipient of many awards and certainly one of the top 1 percent of undergraduates that I had in my laboratory and in the college over 35 years,” she said.

This material is based upon work supported by the NH Agricultural Experiment Station, through joint funding of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 0224826 and 1003341, and the state of New Hampshire. Major funding was provided by the National Science Foundation under award NSF IOS-1257476.

Founded in 1887, the NH Agricultural Experiment Station at the UNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture is UNH’s original research center and an elemental component of New Hampshire's land-grant university heritage and mission.

The University of New Hampshire is a flagship research university that inspires innovation and transforms lives in our state, nation and world. More than 16,000 students from all 50 states and 71 countries engage with an award-winning faculty in top ranked programs in business, engineering, law, liberal arts and the sciences across more than 200 programs of study. UNH’s research portfolio includes partnerships with NASA, NOAA, NSF and NIH, receiving more than $100 million in competitive external funding every year to further explore and define the frontiers of land, sea and space. 

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https://colsa.unh.edu/nhaes/sites/colsa.unh.edu.nhaes/files/media/images/tim.jpg
Tim Marquis, who graduated in 2015 with his bachelor’s degree in biomedical science from the University of New Hampshire, discovered a novel pituitary cell type of the lamprey as an undergraduate at UNH while working in the lab of Dr. Stacia Sower, a researcher with the NH Agricultural Experiment Station and professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular biology.

https://colsa.unh.edu/nhaes/sites/colsa.unh.edu.nhaes/files/media/images/timandstacia.jpg
Tim Marquis worked for five years in Dr. Stacia Sower’s lab, starting as a first-year student and extending his time with one extra year as a technician in her lab, the Anadromous Fish and Aquatic Invertebrate Research Laboratory. Here they work together at the cryostat machine.