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Open Access Cortisol Metabolism in the Bolivian Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri boliviensis boliviensis)

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New World squirrel monkeys (Saimiri spp.) have high circulating cortisol levels but normal electrolytes and blood pressures. The goal of the present study was to gain insight into adaptive mechanisms used by Bolivian squirrel monkeys to minimize the effects of high cortisol on mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) activity and electrolyte and water balance. Aldosterone levels in serum from 10 squirrel monkeys were 17.7 ± 3.4 ng/dl (normal range in humans, 4 to 31 ng/dl), suggesting that squirrel monkeys do not exhibit a compensatory increase in aldosterone. The squirrel monkey MR was cloned and expressed in COS-7 cells and found to have similar responsiveness to cortisol and aldosterone as human MR, suggesting that squirrel monkey MR is not inherently less responsive to cortisol. To determine whether altered metabolism of cortisol might contribute to MR protection in squirrel monkeys, serum and urinary cortisol and cortisone were measured, and a comprehensive urinary corticosteroid metabolite profile was performed in samples from anesthetized and awake squirrel monkeys. The levels of cortisone exceeded those of cortisol in serum and urine, suggesting increased peripheral 11-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 2 activity in squirrel monkeys. In addition, a significant fraction (approximately 20%) of total corticosteroids excreted in the urine of squirrel monkeys appeared as 6-hydroxycortisol, compared with that in man (1%). Therefore, changes in cortisol metabolism likely contribute to adaptive mechanisms used by Bolivian squirrel monkeys to minimize effects of high cortisol.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2006

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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