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The Journal of endocrinology

Fecal thyroid hormones allow for the noninvasive monitoring of energy intake in capuchin monkeys.


PMID 27460343

Abstract

Measuring energetic condition of wild animals is of major importance in ecological research, as it is profoundly linked to fitness. However, noninvasive monitoring of energetic condition in wild-living animals is methodologically challenging. Measuring urinary C-peptide levels is a suitable method to noninvasively assess energy balance in wild-living animals. As collecting urine is not always feasible in the wild, it is essential to establish alternative biomarkers for other sample types to assess energy balance. Thyroid hormones (TH) are potential candidates as they are involved in the regulation of metabolic processes. During periods of low energy intake, serum TH levels are reduced, leading to a decrease in metabolic activity. To investigate whether fecal TH can serve as a biomarker for energy balance, we validated a total T3 ELISA to measure immunoreactive T3 (iT3) in fecal samples of yellow-breasted capuchins. We restricted caloric intake of seven males, assessed daily group caloric intake and determined daily individual fecal iT3 levels. Analytical validation of the assay showed that fecal iT3 levels can be reliably measured; however, proper storage conditions must be implemented and possible degradation to be accounted for. IT3 levels were significantly higher on days with high group caloric intake. However, individual iT3 levels varied substantially, resulting in an overlap across individuals between conditions. Our results indicate that fecal iT3 levels can serve as a useful biomarker to detect changes in energy intake of yellow-breasted capuchins. Overall, measuring fecal iT3 levels may present a suitable method for monitoring energy balance when urine collection is impossible.

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