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PloS one

The acute phase protein ceruloplasmin as a non-invasive marker of pseudopregnancy, pregnancy, and pregnancy loss in the giant panda.


PMID 21765892

Abstract

After ovulation, non-pregnant female giant pandas experience pseudopregnancy. During pseudopregnancy, non-pregnant females exhibit physiological and behavioral changes similar to pregnancy. Monitoring hormonal patterns that are usually different in pregnant mammals are not effective at determining pregnancy status in many animals that undergo pseudopregnancy, including the giant panda. Therefore, a physiological test to distinguish between pregnancy and pseudopregnancy in pandas has eluded scientists for decades. We examined other potential markers of pregnancy and found that activity of the acute phase protein ceruloplasmin increases in urine of giant pandas in response to pregnancy. Results indicate that in term pregnancies, levels of active urinary ceruloplasmin were elevated the first week of pregnancy and remain elevated until 20-24 days prior to parturition, while no increase was observed during the luteal phase in known pseudopregnancies. Active ceruloplasmin also increased during ultrasound-confirmed lost pregnancies; however, the pattern was different compared to term pregnancies, particularly during the late luteal phase. In four out of the five additional reproductive cycles included in the current study where females were bred but no birth occurred, active ceruloplasmin in urine increased during the luteal phase. Similar to the known lost pregnancies, the temporal pattern of change in urinary ceruloplasmin during the luteal phase deviated from the term pregnancies suggesting that these cycles may have also been lost pregnancies. Among giant pandas in captivity, it has been presumed that there is a high rate of pregnancy loss and our results are the first to provide evidence supporting this notion.