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Open Access Hypercortisolemia and Depressive-like Behaviors in a Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta) Involved in Visual Research

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A 10-y-old cranially implanted rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) involved in visual research was presented for dull mentation and weight loss. Physical examination revealed alopecia and poor body conditioning, and bloodwork revealed marked hypercortisolemia (23 μg/dL). Differential diagnoses for hypercortisolemia, weight loss, and alopecia included Cushing and pseudo-Cushing syndromes. To further evaluate hypercortisolemia, we compared the urine cortisol:creatinine ratio (UCCR) at baseline and after low-dose dexamethasone suppression (LDDS) testing in the presenting animal and healthy naïve and implanted working monkeys. At baseline, UCCR was 10 times higher in the presenting macaque (118.1 ± 7.1) than in naïve animals (12.5 ± 12.8) and 3 times higher than in healthy implanted working macaques (44.4 ± 6.9); however, levels were suppressed similarly by dexamethasone in both the presenting animal and healthy controls. In addition, healthy implanted working macaques had significantly higher baseline UCCR levels than naïve controls, suggesting chronic stress in working animals. Abdominal ultrasonography and radiographs of the presenting animal revealed marked bilateral adrenal mineralization but no overt adrenal tumor or hyperplasia. Overall, these results excluded endogenous Cushing syndrome and prompted us to evaluate different causes of pseudo-Cushing syndrome, including depression. Using videorecordings to evaluate behavior, we used published criteria for macaque models of depression models, including huddling, to make a presumptive diagnosis of depression. The macaque was treated with fluoxetine (2 mg/kg PO daily), provided increased environmental enrichment, and followed over time by regular UCCR assessment and videorecordings. The animal improved clinically and behaviorally, and UCCR returned to levels observed in working implanted macaques (44.4) after 8 wk of treatment. This case highlights the potential effect of research-related work on stress and pathologic behaviors in macaques and demonstrates the utility of UCCR and LDDS for screening behavioral and hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal abnormalities in these animals.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Animal Resources Department, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 2: Veterinary Imaging Center of San Diego, San Diego, California 3: STAT Veterinary Lab, San Diego, California 4: Animal Resources Department, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: December 1, 2017

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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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