Serum Acute Phase Proteins in Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and Correlation with Commonly Utilized Inflammatory Indices
Jennifer E. Flower1*; Jennifer N. Langan2,3; Randall S. Wells4; Carolyn Cray5; Kristopher Arheart6; Sathya K. Chinnadurai2; Michael J. Adkesson2
1Mystic Aquarium, a division of Sea Research Foundation, Mystic, CT, USA; 2Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, IL, USA; 3Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, USA; 4Chicago Zoological Society, Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, Sarasota, FL, USA; 5Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Division of Comparative Pathology, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA; 6Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA
Acute phase proteins (APPs) are the foundation to the innate immune response and valuable biomarkers that increase with inflammation, infection, neoplasia, stress, and trauma. Little is known about the acute phase response in cetaceans and if these proteins can be used for health monitoring in individuals or free-ranging populations. The purpose of this study was to characterize serum concentrations of haptoglobin (Hp) and serum amyloid A (SAA), as well as electrophoretic profiles of Tursiops in free-ranging (n = 33) and professional care settings (n = 27). Results were correlated to commonly utilized inflammatory indices including erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), fibrinogen, total white blood cell count (WBC), and absolute neutrophil count. Serum amyloid A levels, measured with a dolphin-specific ELISA, were significantly higher in free-ranging dolphins (mean = 4.26; SE = 1.12) when compared to those under professional care (mean = 1.82; SE = 0.45). For dolphins under professional care, a statistically significant correlation was identified between ESR and Hp (p < 0.001; r = 0.690), ESR and SAA (p < 0.001; r = 0.666), fibrinogen and Hp (p = 0.001; r = 0.576) and fibrinogen and SAA (p = 0.002; r = 0.562). In addition, there was a significant correlation between WBC and SAA (p = 0.014; r = 0.381) and absolute neutrophil count and SAA (p = 0.039; r = 0.324). There were no significant correlations identified in free-ranging dolphins. The variable correlation of APPs with commonly utilized inflammatory indices demonstrates that these proteins are independent measures of inflammation with unique sensitivity and specificity and timeline of expression. The results of this study contribute to improved diagnostic health monitoring of dolphins and have the potential to promote earlier identification of compromised health.
The authors thank Dolphin Quest, Inc., for funding the collection of samples from the free-ranging dolphins under National Marine Fisheries Service Scientific Research Permit No. 15543 and Mote Marine Laboratory IACUC approval. The authors also thank the veterinary and dolphin husbandry teams at Texas State Aquarium, Disney's The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Indianapolis Zoo, Dolphin Connection, and National Aquarium in Baltimore.
* Presenting author