Long-time New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station researcher Dr. Stacia Sower, professor emeritus of molecular and biochemical neuroendocrinology, recently gave the prestigious Bargmann-Scharrer Lecture at the quadrennial meeting of the International Congress of Comparative Endocrinology in Canada.
Considered the pinnacle lecture of the discipline of comparative endocrinology, the Bargmann-Scharrer Lecture was created in honor of Dr. Wolfgang Bargmann and Dr. Ernst Albert Scharrer, pioneers in the field of comparative neuroendocrinology. The Bargmann-Scharrer lecture recognizes the life-long achievements of a prominent comparative neuroendocrinologist.
Neuroendocrinology is the study of the interactions between the nervous system and the endocrine system. The concept arose from the recognition that the secretion of hormones from the pituitary gland was closely controlled by the brain, and especially by the hypothalamus.
“It was a very special honor and opportunity for me to be the recipient of this prestigious lecture. I really feel so fortunate to have begun my research in comparative neuroendocrinology in the late 1970s. My beginnings in comparative neuroendocrinology coincided with the early advancements in this field,” Sower said.
“Comparative neuroendocrinology is an incredibly exciting field of study that can make many meaningful contributions to science in many areas of biology and medical sciences. It crosses many disciplines including such examples as biochemistry, molecular biology, physiology, genomics, and evolutionary biology,” she said.
Sower’s lecture titled “The Origins of the Vertebrate Hypothalamic-Pituitary Axis: Insights From Lampreys” provided an overview of the research she has conducted over the course of career. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, NH Agricultural Experiment Station, and Great Lakes Fishery Commission.
Using a multidisciplinary approach, Sower, who came to the University of New Hampshire in 1982, studies the molecular evolution of the neuroendocrine system in basal vertebrates -- lampreys and hagfish. The contributions and major breakthroughs made by her laboratory in the biological sciences and neuroendocrinology are related to the origin, evolution, and function of the neuroendocrine system in vertebrates.
In her plenary lecture, Sower presented the discoveries and latest information about lampreys, the most basal, jawless vertebrate that has been on the Earth for 500 million years. Specifically, she discussed analyses on the origins, co-evolution, and divergence of ligand and receptor protein families of gonadotropin-releasing hormones (GnRH) and pituitary glycoprotein hormones (GpH), which play important roles in reproduction of vertebrates.
“In my opinion, Dr. Sower is the clear and current global leader in the understanding of reproduction and neuroendocrinology in the agnathan fishes whose work has implications well beyond her area of study. Although to some, this may appear to be rather specialized, it is important to note that biological understanding of the chordate lineage that the lampreys belong to is essential to understand reproductive neuroendocrinology of all chordates including mammals and, indeed, humans,” said David Lovejoy, professor of neuroendocrinology at the University of Toronto.
“Professor Stacia Sower has worked tirelessly to reveal extremely valuable information about the very origins of the vertebrate endocrine system. She has sought and received assistance beyond her own expertise in this journey of discovery and she readily acknowledges all those who have worked with her. I do not think that any one of us would not recognize the enormous value of the body of work she has amassed on agnathan comparative endocrinology over the past 30 years,” Jean MP Joss, professor emeritus, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.
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 1003341, and the state of New Hampshire. This material also is based on NSF grant 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. We steward federal and state funding, including support from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, to provide unbiased and objective research concerning diverse aspects of sustainable agriculture and foods, aquaculture, forest management, and related wildlife, natural resources and rural community topics. We maintain the Woodman and Kingman agronomy and horticultural research farms, the Macfarlane Research Greenhouses, the Fairchild Dairy Teaching and Research Center, and the Organic Dairy Research Farm. Additional properties also provide forage, forests and woodlands in direct support to research, teaching, and outreach.