Journal of comparative physiology. B, Biochemical, systemic, and environmental physiology

Acid loads induced by the detoxification of plant secondary metabolites do not limit feeding by common brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula).

PMID 19727760


We fed common brushtail possums artificial diets containing a buffer and the plant secondary metabolite (PSM), orcinol, to test the hypothesis that organic acids, common products of PSM metabolism, limit feeding by common brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula). We introduced several diets containing orcinol and a buffer (urinary alkalising agent) over a course of three experiments. A diet containing 2% orcinol (wet matter) caused possums to reduce their food intake immediately, but feeding returned to normal 1-2 days later. Even though possums excreted strongly acidic urine (pH 5.1) and had perturbed nitrogen metabolism, they maintained their food intake and body mass until the experiment terminated 9 days after the introduction of orcinol. Possums ate 52% less when the basal diet contained 4% orcinol. As expected, the acid loads caused a change in the composition of urinary nitrogen with possums excreting more ammonium than urea and a large amount of unidentified nitrogenous material. Supplementing the diet containing orcinol with buffer neutralised the metabolic acid load and partly restored normal nitrogen metabolism, but did not restore feeding. Also, animals eating orcinol excreted normal amounts of 3-methylhistidine, indicating no increase in muscle protein catabolism. This suggests that a limitation to the rate of detoxification or toxicosis, rather than acid loads, limits the ingestion of acid-inducing PSMs.

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