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Peter J. Hansen

Distinguished Professor & L.E. "Red" Larson Professor

Dr. Hansen joined the faculty at Florida as an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1984 and transferred to the Dairy Science Department (now Animal Sciences) in 1986. His formal education was at the University of Illinois and University of Wisconsin.  He received postdoctoral training in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Florida and spent a sabbatical leave at the University of Guelph.


  • Research

    Research Summary

    The principal area of research focus is the elucidation of the cellular and molecular processes by which cellular stress disrupts embryonic function and the intercellular defense systems that embryos use to limit these effects. Research in the laboratory demonstrated that preimplantation embryonic development is disrupted by exposure to elevated temperature and that embryos acquire resistance to elevated temperature as they proceed through development. It was also shown that embryonic resistance to heat shock is controlled by genetic factors, with embryos from Bos indicus being more resistant to heat shock than embryos from B. taurus. Moreover, embryonic thermotolerance can be enhanced by manipulating heat shock protein synthesis and treatment with the survival factor, insulin-like growth factor-1. My current focus is on understanding the molecular basis for these determinants of thermotolerance with emphasis on the role of apoptosis, heat shock protein synthesis, and free radical metabolism.

    Applied studies have used the knowledge gained from studies of embryo physiology to develop new management strategies for increasing dairy cattle fertility. In embryo transfer schemes, embryos are typically transferred to recipients at a stage of development at which they have acquired substantial resistance to heat shock. It has been demonstrated in the laboratory that pregnancy rate during periods of heat stress can be improved through the use of embryo transfer. Increasing fertility during heat stress has been a difficult task and embryo transfer represents the first successful approach to doing so. Current research is devoted to improving the practicality of using embryo transfer as a tool for enhancing fertility in dairy cattle exposed to heat stress or with low fertility.   Much of the new focus in the laboratory is on understanding how maternally derived molecules like CSF2 and IGF1 can alter the pattern of preimplantation development to enhance embryonic and fetal survivial. 

    A second area of research is focused on immunological interactions between the conceptus and mother. Much of this work centers on progesterone since this hormone plays an important role in suppressing uterine immune function during pregnancy. It is believed progesterone acts, at least in part, by inducing secretion of other molecules that inhibit lymphocyte proliferation. In sheep, the model species for much of the work, this molecule has been identified as a protein called ovine uterine serpin. Recently, it was shown that ovine uterine serpin can also inhibit growth of several tumor cell lines and an emerging area of research will be to characterize the mechanism and test possible anticarcinogenic properties of the protein.

    A third area of research focuses on understanding the molecular correlates of the evolutionary development of the epitheliochorial placenta.  Work has focused on phylogenetic changes in the uterine serpin genes.

    Finally, efforts are being initiated to understand the genetic control of fertility and thermotolerance.

  • Teaching

    Courses Taught

    • ANS 6313 – Current Concepts in Reproductive Biology
    • ANS 6751 – Physiology of Reproduction
    • PCB 6816 – Thermal Physiology



PO Box 110910
Gainesville, FL 32611

2250 Shealy Dr.
Gainesville, FL 32611
P.J. Hansen's Lab
Animal Molecular and Cellular Biology Program

  • Education


    • 1983, Ph.D. (Endocrinology-Reproductive Physiology), University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (E.R. Hauser, Major Professor)
    • 1980, M.S. (Endocrinology-Reproductive Physiology), University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (E.R. Hauser, Major Professor)
    • 1978,  B.S. (Agriculture), High Honors, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, IL

    Academic Positions Since Final Degree:

    • Present Position, Distinguished Professor and L.E. "Red" Larson Professor, Department of Animal Sciences and Affiliate Professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
    • August, 1993-March, 2010; Professor, Dairy Science Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
    • August, 1989-August, 1993; Associate Professor, Dairy Science Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
    • July, 1986-August, 1989; Assistant Professor, Dairy Science Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
    • 1988-1996; Associated Graduate Faculty, Dept. of Biomedical Sciences, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
    • July, 1985-July 1986;  Assistant Professor, Department of Reproduction, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
    • September, 1984-July, 1985; Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Reproduction, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
    • April, 1983-September, 1984; Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL .
  • Publications
  • Professional Service and Awards

    Professional Memberships

    • American Dairy Science Association
    • American Society of Animal Science
    • American Society for Reproductive Immunology (President 2004-2006)
    • International Congress of Animal Reproduction (President, 2012-2016)
    • International Embryo Transfer Society (President 2013-2014)
      Society for the Study of Reproduction


    • American Journal of Reproductive Immunology, Animal Sciences Editor (2009-2012).
    • Animal Reproduction Science, Editor-in-Chief (with three others), 2012-present.
    • Journal of Dairy Science, Editor (1996-1999) and Senior Editor (1999-2000), Reviews Editgor (2003-2012.)
    • Journal of Reproductive Immunology, Section Editor, Animal Sciences (2002-2008).
    • Livestock Science, Reproduction Editor, (2007-2011).

    Honors and Awards