PloS one

Proteomic Analysis of Plasma from California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) Reveals Apolipoprotein E as a Candidate Biomarker of Chronic Domoic Acid Toxicosis.

PMID 25919366


Domoic acid toxicosis (DAT) in California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) is caused by exposure to the marine biotoxin domoic acid and has been linked to massive stranding events and mortality. Diagnosis is based on clinical signs in addition to the presence of domoic acid in body fluids. Chronic DAT further is characterized by reoccurring seizures progressing to status epilepticus. Diagnosis of chronic DAT is often slow and problematic, and minimally invasive tests for DAT have been the focus of numerous recent biomarker studies. The goal of this study was to retrospectively profile plasma proteins in a population of sea lions with chronic DAT and those without DAT using two dimensional gel electrophoresis to discover whether individual, multiple, or combinations of protein and clinical data could be utilized to identify sea lions with DAT. Using a training set of 32 sea lion sera, 20 proteins and their isoforms were identified that were significantly different between the two groups (p<0.05). Interestingly, 11 apolipoprotein E (ApoE) charge forms were decreased in DAT samples, indicating that ApoE charge form distributions may be important in the progression of DAT. In order to develop a classifier of chronic DAT, an independent blinded test set of 20 sea lions, seven with chronic DAT, was used to validate models utilizing ApoE charge forms and eosinophil counts. The resulting support vector machine had high sensitivity (85.7% with 92.3% negative predictive value) and high specificity (92.3% with 85.7% positive predictive value). These results suggest that ApoE and eosinophil counts along with machine learning can perform as a robust and accurate tool to diagnose chronic DAT. Although this analysis is specifically focused on blood biomarkers and routine clinical data, the results demonstrate promise for future studies combining additional variables in multidimensional space to create robust classifiers.