Vaughan Lee Ph.D.
My ultimate research goal is to understand the regulatory mechanisms controlling specific
aspects of ovarian development and function. I am specifically interested in differentiation
and development of granulosa cells in growing follicles, their regulatory mechanisms,
and how these may relate to the development of ovarian cancer. A current project in
my laboratory is investigating the regulation of connexin 43 in granulosa cells and
its involvement in tumorigenesis in ovarian cells. Like other types of cancers, some
ovarian cancers exhibit the loss of normal connexin expression as part of their tumorigenic
process. Connexins, proteins that form gap junction channels which facilitate intercellular
communication, are well-documented tumor suppressors. Restoring connexin expression
in cancer cells inhibits tumor growth by preventing uncontrolled proliferation and
re-establishing of normal density-dependent growth. In ovarian granulosa cells, connexin
43 expression and proliferation are simultaneously stimulated to achieve normal growth
in developing follicles. A model for normal follicle growth was developed in which
epidermal growth factor stimulates connexin 43 expression and proliferation in cultured
rabbit granulosa cells. This model will be utilized to determine the molecular mechanism
coupling connexin 43 expression and proliferation in granulosa cells, and to show
that disruption of this regulation can lead to uncontrolled proliferation. Disruption
of this regulation could be one mechanism by which granulosa cell cancers, as well
as tumors from other cell types, develop. Components of this regulatory mechanism
could be future targets for biological therapy and chemoprevention of multiple types
A second research project utilizes pigs, an agriculturally important species, which
have a prepubertal pattern of ovarian development similar to rabbits. My laboratory
group has reported that increased expression of connexin 43 is associated with growth
of early preantral follicles in pigs as in rabbits. Furthermore, epidermal growth
factor enhances connexin 43 expression in early preantral pig follicles and that estrogen
receptor mRNA is expressed in these immature pig follicles. The hypothesis is that
the epidermal growth factor and estrogen signaling pathways interact to modulate early
folliculogenesis through altering connexin 43 expression. Results of this work will
not only improve our knowledge about regulation of early follicular development but
will allow us to design techniques to improve reproductive efficiency on commercial
The knowledge gained from these interrelated projects will lead to a better understanding
of normal molecular processes involved in regulation of development and function in
mammalian ovaries. This basic knowledge may help develop new approaches to manipulate
ovarian function and manage ovarian cancer.
I have taught Medical Gross Anatomy for over thirteen years in several different institutions
and have been Director of Medical Gross Anatomy at TTUHSC since 2004. In 2004-2005
I served on the TTUHSC Curriculum Redesign Committee and as Chair of Foundations of
Medical Sciences Block Redesign Team. In 2005 I served as Block 1 Leader in the First
Year Medical Curriculum: Foundations of Medical Sciences Block. Since 2003 I have
been director of the Surgical Anatomy Elective and the 4th Year Advanced Anatomy Elective.
- Kennedy, K.L., Floyd, A.A., Clarkson, A.M., and Lee, V.H. 2003. Epidermal Growth Factor
Regulation of Connexin 43 in Cultured Granulosa Cells from Preantral Rabbit Follicles.
Mol Reprod Devel 64:61-69.
- Bolamba, D., Floyd, A.A., McGlone, J.J., and Lee, V.H. 2002. Epidermal Growth Factor
Enhances Expression of Connexin 43 Protein in Cultured Porcine Ovarian Explants and
Preantral Follicles. Biol. Reprod. 67:154-160.
- Melton, C.M., Patino, R., Zaunbrecher, G., Rendon, A., Whisnant, C.S. and Lee, V.H.
2001. Expression of connexin 43 mRNA in developing follicles of prepubertal porcine
ovaries. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B 130:43-55.
- Xiaotian Chang, X., Pati�o, R., Yoshizaki, G., Thomas, P., and Lee, V.H. 2000. Hormonal
Regulation and Cellular Distribution of Connexin 32.2 and Connexin 32.7 RNAs in the
Ovary of Atlantic Croaker. General & Comparative Endocrinology 120:146-156.
- Lee, V.H. 2000. Expression of Rabbit Zona Pellucida 1 (ZP1) mRNA during Early Follicular
Development. Biol. Reprod. 63:401-408.
- Rendon, A., Hewetson, A., Chilton, B.S. and Lee, V.H. 2000. Expression of RUSH transcription
factors in developing and adult rabbit gonads. Biol. Reprod. 63:156-164.
- Lee, V.H. and McGlone, J.J. 1998. Accelerating Ovarian Maturation. National Hog Farmer