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College of Arts and Sciences

Faculty and Staff

Shannon Davis

Title: Associate Professor
Department: Biological Sciences
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-8349 (office), 803-777-9940 (lab)
Office: CLS 503
Resources: Department of Biological Sciences
Shannon Davis


The pituitary gland plays a critical role in regulating a wide range of physiological processes, including reproduction, growth, metabolism, and stress response. These processes are regulated through the secretion of hormones that affect specific target organs such as the liver, thyroid, and gonads. As a consequence, lesions in genes involved in pituitary development that result in multiple pituitary hormone deficiencies (MPHD) can have profound effects on multiple physiological processes. Many genes that cause MPHD are transcription factors necessary for the embryonic development of the pituitary gland. For instance, loss of PROP1, which is a homeodomain containing transcription factor, can result in an absence of growth hormone (GH), thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), prolactin (PRL), luteinizing hormone (LH), and progressive loss of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) in humans. Mice containing null mutations in Prop1 also display a similar phenotype.  Understanding how the pituitary gland forms and how each hormone producing cell type is specified provides critical insight into the central role the pituitary gland plays in vertebrate physiology.

Research in my lab is focused on determining the molecular mechanisms of pituitary gland organogenesis. One current project focuses on the morphogenesis of the pituitary gland, especially how signaling factors such as BMP, FGF, WNT, and SHH contribute to the proper size, shape, and location of the pituitary gland.  A second project seeks to understand how the five hormone secreting cell types of the pituitary anterior lobe are specified and what signaling factors are necessary for their formation.


Youngblood JL, Coleman TF, Davis SW. 2018. Regulation of Pituitary Progenitor Differentiation by β-Catenin. Endocrinology 159: 3287–3305.

Osmundsen AM, Keisler JL, Taketo MM, Davis SW. 2017. Canonical WNT signaling regulates the pituitary organizer and pituitary gland formation. Endocrinology 158: 3339-3353.

Cheung LY, Davis SW, Brinkmeier ML, Camper SA, Pérez-Millán MI. 2017.Regulation of pituitary stem cells by epithelial to mesenchymal transition events and signaling pathways. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 445: 14-26.

Davis SW, Mortensen AH, Keisler JL, Zacharias AL, Gage PJ, Yamamura K, Camper SA. 2016. Beta-catenin is required in the neural crest and mesencephalon for pituitary gland organogenesis. BMC Dev Biol. 16(1): 16.

Davis, SW, Keisler, JL, Perez-Millan MI, Schade, V, Camper, SA. 2016. All hormone-producing cell types of the pituitary intermediate and anterior lobes derive from Prop1 expressing progenitors.  Endocrinology 157(4): 1385-96.

Davis SW and Keisler JL. 2016. Embryonic Development of the Deer Mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus. PLoS One. 2016 Mar 1;11(3): e0150598.

Xie, H, Hoffmann HM, Meadows JD, Mayo SL, Trang C, Leming SS, Maruggi C, Davis SW, Larder R, Mellon PL. 2015. Homeodomain Proteins Six3 and Six6 Regulate Gonadotrope-specific Genes During Pituitary Development. Molecular Endocrinology. 29(6): 842-855.

Orciani M, Davis S, Appolloni G, Lazzarini R, Mattioli-Belmonte M, Ricciuti RA, Boscaro M, Di Primio R, Arnaldi G. 2015. Isolation and characterization of progenitor mesenchymal cells in human pituitary tumors. Cancer Gene Therapy. 22(1): 9-16.

Davis, SW; Ellsworth, BS; Peréz-Millan, MI; Gergics, P; Schade, V; Foyouzi, N; Brinkmeier, ML; Mortensen, AH; Camper, SA. 2013. Pituitary gland development and disease: from stem cell to hormone production. Current Topics in Developmental Biology 106: 1-47.

Pérez-Millán, M; Zeidler, MG; Saunders, TL; Camper, SA; Davis, SW.  2013. Efficient, specific, developmentally appropriate cre-mediated recombination in anterior pituitary gonadotropes and thyrotropes.  Genesis 51: 785-792.

Davis, SW; Mortensen, AH; Camper, SA. 2011. Birthdating studies reshape models for pituitary gland cell specification. Developmental Biology. 352: 215 - 227.

Davis, SW; Castinetti, F; Carvalho, LR; Ellsworth,BS; Potok, MA; Lyons, RH; Brinkmeier, ML; Raetzman, LT; Carninci, P; Mortensen, AH; Hayashizaki, Y; Arnhold, IJP; Mendonca, BB; Brue, T; Camper, SA. 2010. Molecular mechanisms of pituitary organogenesis: in search of novel regulatory genes. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology. 323: 4 - 19.

Davis, SW and Camper, SA. 2007. Noggin regulates Bmp4 activity during pituitary induction. Developmental Biology. 305: 145 - 160.

Davis, SW; Miura, S; Hill, C; Mishina, Y; and Klingensmith, J. 2004. BMP Receptor 1A is required in the mammalian embryo for endodermal morphogenesis and ectodermal patterning. Developmental Biology. 270: 47 - 63.