Biology ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 7-27-2018


All newborn mammals are highly dependent upon milk for nourishment and immune protection. This is especially true for marsupials, a lineage of mammals with a short gestation, limited placental development, and an increased reliance on an extended lactation period. Most newborn marsupials do not receive passive maternal immunity in utero and therefore are entirely dependent upon factors within the milk for immune protection until capable of mounting their own response. In this project we seek to characterize the complex lactation program utilized by marsupials, and seek greater understanding of the maternal role in the establishment of the developing immune system of a model marsupial, the gray short-tailed opossum, Monodelphis domestica. The ontogeny of opossum immune development has been well established, however investigations into correlations with changes in the mammaries during lactation are lacking in this species. Towards these goals, a combination of histology, immunohistochemistry and quantitative PCR was used to investigate mammary development and immune system presence in the opossum mammaries throughout lactation. These investigations have the potential to impact the understanding of the role the immune system plays in mammary development and function from an evolutionary perspective.

Project Sponsors

Robert Miller




Mammary gland, evolution, lactation, immune system, mammary development, marsupial

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Biology Department

First Committee Member (Chair)

Robert Miller

Second Committee Member

Michael Criscitiello

Third Committee Member

Richard Cripps

Fourth Committee Member

Darrell Dinwiddie

Fifth Committee Member

Bruce Hofkin

Included in

Biology Commons