Professor of Biology Herm Lehman recently presented an invited talk to the Zoology Department at Stockholm University. In “Octopamine; from an invertebrate neurotransmitter to human cognition,” Lehman presented student research conducted over several years that described the actions of octopamine, an invertebrate neurotransmitter, that led to the discovery of a novel enzyme called TbhR.
TbhR is structurally similar but not identical to Tbh, an enzyme required for octopamine synthesis. Lehman’s lab has determined the spacial and temporal distribution of TbhR and has evidence that a gene encoding TbhR is found in invertebrates and vertebrates. Moreover, TbhR is localized to the endoplasmic reticulum, has a role in hypoxia (lack of oxygen)-resistance, and may participate in the proper folding of proteins.
Lehman said that other studies (Barral et al., 2014) have indicated that the vertebrate homolog of TbhR (MOXd1) is associated with high cognitive performance in long-lived humans, and he presented an argument that TbhR/MOXd1 may prevent cognitive decline by promoting cellular actions that also render cells resistant to hypoxia.
While in Stockholm, Lehman also learned about hypoxic zones in developing nervous systems. He said he has identified collaborators to assist in the determination of the cellular distribution of TbhR in hypoxic zones in the nervous system and its role in neurodevelopment, learning, and memory as the research continues.
Lehman visited Denmark and Sweden to review DIS Study Abroad Programs in Scandinavia. DIS is a Hamilton-approved program for students interested in studying abroad in Denmark and Sweden.