Fish Physiology and Biochemistry

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 75–83 | Cite as

Glycoprotein hormone in the pituitary of hagfish and its evolutionary implications

  • Katsuhisa UchidaEmail author
  • Shunsuke Moriyama
  • Stacia A. Sower
  • Masumi Nozaki


The pituitary gland is present in all vertebrates, from agnathans (jawless vertebrates) to mammals, but not in invertebrates. Reproduction in gnathostomes (jawed vertebrates) is controlled by two pituitary gonadotropins (GTHs), luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone, which are part of the pituitary glycoprotein hormone (GPH) family. Hagfishes, which lack both jaws and vertebrae, are considered the most primitive vertebrate known, living or extinct. Accordingly, they are of particular importance in understanding the evolution of the pituitary GPHs and their functions related to vertebrate reproduction. Nevertheless, key elements of the reproductive endocrine system in hagfish have yet to be elucidated. Our current report has revealed the first identification of a functional GPH composed of two subunits that possess gonadotropic action at the pituitary of brown hagfish. It seems most likely that an ancestral GPH gave rise to only one GTH in hagfish pituitary and that multiplicity of GPHs arose later during the early evolution of gnathostomes. This paper briefly summarizes the latest findings on the hagfish GPH from an evolutionary point of view.


Hagfish Pituitary gland Glycoprotein hormone Gonadotropin Reproduction Evolution 



Follicle-stimulating hormone


Glycoprotein alpha subunit


Glycoprotein beta subunit


Glycoprotein hormone



HPG axis

Hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis


Luteinizing hormone


Thyroid-stimulating hormone



This work has been supported in part by Grant-in-Aid for Basic Research from the Ministry of Education, Japan, to K. U., S. M. and M. N. This work was also supported in part by Japanese Association for Marine Biology (JAMBIO, Project No. 23-38) from Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan. This work was also supported in part by National Science Foundation Grant NSF IOS-0849569 and NH AES Hatch 332 to S. A. S.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katsuhisa Uchida
    • 1
    Email author
  • Shunsuke Moriyama
    • 2
  • Stacia A. Sower
    • 3
  • Masumi Nozaki
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Marine Biology and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of AgricultureUniversity of MiyazakiMiyazakiJapan
  2. 2.School of Marine BiosciencesKitasato UniversitySanrikuJapan
  3. 3.Center for Molecular and Comparative Endocrinology and Biochemistry ProgramUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Sado Marine Biological StationNiigata UniversitySadoJapan

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