Publications by authors named "Natalia A Prado"

5 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Epigenetic clock and methylation studies in elephants.

Aging Cell 2021 Jul 12;20(7):e13414. Epub 2021 Jun 12.

Department of Biostatistics, Fielding School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Age-associated DNA-methylation profiles have been used successfully to develop highly accurate biomarkers of age ("epigenetic clocks") in humans, mice, dogs, and other species. Here we present epigenetic clocks for African and Asian elephants. These clocks were developed using novel DNA methylation profiles of 140 elephant blood samples of known age, at loci that are highly conserved between mammalian species, using a custom Infinium array (HorvathMammalMethylChip40). We present epigenetic clocks for Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), African elephants (Loxodonta africana), and both elephant species combined. Two additional human-elephant clocks were constructed by combining human and elephant samples. Epigenome-wide association studies identified elephant age-related CpGs and their proximal genes. The products of these genes play important roles in cellular differentiation, organismal development, metabolism, and circadian rhythms. Intracellular events observed to change with age included the methylation of bivalent chromatin domains, and targets of polycomb repressive complexes. These readily available epigenetic clocks can be used for elephant conservation efforts where accurate estimates of age are needed to predict demographic trends.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acel.13414DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8282242PMC
July 2021

Impacts of the season and reproductive status on fecal reproductive and adrenocortical steroid metabolites in zoo Cuban crocodiles (Crocodylus rhombifer).

Zoo Biol 2020 Nov 8;39(6):411-421. Epub 2020 Aug 8.

Department of Reproductive Sciences, Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian Conservation and Biology Institute, Front Royal, Virginia.

Conservation strategies for crocodilians often include captive breeding to create stable assurance populations. Evaluating adrenal and gonadal hormone patterns can provide animal managers with data to more effectively monitor animal welfare and reproductive status. This study evaluated the effects of season (breeding, nesting, or off), sex (male and female), and reproductive status of females (egg-laying/housed with a male or non-laying/housed solo) on concentrations of fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM), fecal androgen metabolite (FAM), and fecal progestogen metabolite (FPM) in seven Cuban crocodiles, Crocodylus rhombifer, at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park. Overall, seasonal changes in FGM and FPM concentrations were only observed in egg-laying females; FGM and FPM concentrations were both higher during the nesting season compared to the breeding and off seasons. Seasonal changes in FAM concentrations were only observed in males; males had higher FAM concentrations during the breeding and nesting seasons compared to the off season. Future studies investigating the use of fecal hormone metabolites in crocodilians are necessary to understand differences between individuals and species, to further elucidate the interactions between hormones and environmental factors, such as social housing, and to develop long-term datasets for the management of this species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/zoo.21559DOI Listing
November 2020

Ovarian cyclicity and prolactin status of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in North American zoos may be influenced by life experience and individual temperament.

Horm Behav 2020 09 10;125:104804. Epub 2020 Jul 10.

Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, VA, USA.

Hyperprolactinemia is an endocrine disorder associated with infertility in many species, including elephants. In a recent survey of zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), over half of African elephant females (N = 101) were not cycling normally, 30% of which exhibited hyperprolactinemia. We examined whether life experience and temperament predict ovarian cyclicity and circulating prolactin status in individual African elephant females. We hypothesized that, similar to humans, acyclicity and hyperprolactinemia in elephants will be associated with an apprehensive or fearful, anxious temperament, and an increased number of potentially challenging life events (transfers, deaths and births). Ninety-five adult African elephant females housed at 37 AZA institutions were included in this study. Blood samples were collected twice a month for 1 year to determine ovarian cycle (cycling, n = 44; irregular, n = 13; non-cycling, n = 38) and prolactin (normal, n = 44; low; n = 23; high; n = 28) status. Keeper ratings on a 6-point scale were obtained on 32 temperament traits in 85 of these elephants. We determined that giving birth and being exposed to herd mates entering the facility were positively associated with normal ovarian cycle and prolactin profiles. By contrast, age, serum cortisol, and an increased number of herd mates leaving a facility were negatively associated with both. Contrary to our hypothesis, hyperprolactinemia was associated with a popular and caring temperament rating, whereas consistently low prolactin was associated with a fearful, apprehensive temperament. These findings indicate that pituitary-ovarian function may be impacted by life history (cyclicity) and temperament (prolactin), which should be taken into consideration when making management decisions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2020.104804DOI Listing
September 2020

Hyperprolactinemic African elephant (Loxodonta africana) females exhibit elevated dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin concentrations compared to normal cycling and noncycling, low prolactin elephants†.

Biol Reprod 2019 06;100(6):1549-1560

Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, Virginia, USA.

Many zoo elephants do not cycle normally, and for African elephants, it is often associated with hyperprolactinemia. Dopamine agonists successfully treat hyperprolactinemia-induced ovarian dysfunction in women, but not elephants. The objective of this study was to determine how longitudinal dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin patterns in African elephants are related to ovarian cycle function. We hypothesized that dopamine concentrations are decreased, while oxytocin and serotonin are increased in non-cycling, hyperprolactinemic African elephants. Weekly urine and serum samples were collected for eight consecutive months from 28 female African elephants. Females were categorized as follows: (1) non-cycling with average prolactin concentrations of 15 ng/ml or greater (HIGH; n = 7); (2) non-cycling with average prolactin concentrations below 15 ng/ml (LOW; n = 13); and (3) cycling with normal progestagen and prolactin patterns (CYCLING; n = 8). Both oxytocin and serotonin were elevated in hyperprolactinemic elephants. Thus, we propose that stimulatory factors may play a role in the observed hyperprolactinemia in this species. Interestingly, rather than being reduced as hypothesized, urinary dopamine was elevated in hyperprolactinemic elephants compared to CYCLING and LOW prolactin groups. Despite its apparent lack of regulatory control over prolactin, this new evidence suggests that dopamine synthesis and secretion are not impaired in these elephants, and perhaps are augmented.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/biolre/ioz036DOI Listing
June 2019

Prolonged ovarian acyclicity is associated with a higher likelihood of developing hyperprolactinemia in zoo female African elephants.

Zoo Biol 2019 Mar 18;38(2):180-188. Epub 2018 Dec 18.

Department of Reproductive Sciences, Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, Virginia.

Hyperprolactinemia is a common disorder of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, and a cause of ovarian dysfunction in women. Currently, over half of non-cycling African elephant females in North America also are hyperprolactinemic, suggesting a similar link between these two conditions may exist. The objective of this study was to determine the relationship between acyclicity and prolactin status by comparing mean prolactin concentrations of bi-weekly samples collected over a 1-year period in 2012 with 20 years of historical weekly progestagen data to assess cyclicity. Females were categorized as: 1) non-cycling with an average prolactin concentration of 15 ng/ml or greater (HIGH; n = 17); 2) non-cycling with an average prolactin concentration below 15 ng/ml (LOW; n = 16); and 3) typical temporal patterns of progestagen and prolactin secretion (NORMAL; n = 45), and evaluated based on length of time (in years) they had experienced ovarian inactivity. Results showed that the majority of HIGH prolactin elephants had been acyclic for at least 5 years, and in a number of cases (n = 9) for over 10 years. By contrast, most of the LOW prolactin elephants had experienced acyclicity for less than 5 years. Finally, there was a positive association between duration of acyclicity and mean prolactin concentrations, with an increase in the likelihood of having higher prolactin concentrations the longer an individual was acyclic. This study highlights the importance of longitudinal hormonal datasets to examine temporal changes in biological functioning and better understand the etiology of infertility problems.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/zoo.21464DOI Listing
March 2019