CZAAWE Resource Article

Fecal androgen metabolite analysis for noninvasive monitoring of testicular steroidogenic activity in felids
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Zoo Biology
Limited data are available on long-term, seasonal changes in testicular steroidogenic activity in nondomestic felids, primarily because of the difficulties associated with longitudinal blood sampling (e.g., handling, restraint, anesthesia). Therefore, a noninvasive approach for assessing testicular androgen production was developed using the domestic cat (Felis catus) as a model. Two adult males were injected i.m. with 4 μCi14-testosterone to determine the time course and relative proportions of androgen metabolites excreted in urine and feces. Peak urinary radioactivity was detected 13 and 19 hr postinjection and accounted for ∼8% of the total radioactivity recovered. High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis detected multiple polar urinary metabolites, none of which eluted with the 3H-testosterone reference tracer. The majority of urinary testosterone metabolites consisted of nonenzyme-hydrolyzable, water-soluble (presumably conjugated) forms. In feces, radioactivity was detected in the first sample collected at 22 hr postinjection for both males, although peak metabolite excretion in one male was not observed until 61 hr postinjection. HPLC analysis detected several fecal metabolites consisting primarily of nonhydrolyzable, water-soluble forms (84.4 ± 0.9%) with some ether-soluble forms (15.6 ± 0.9%). None of the fecal androgen metabolites were associated with free testosterone. However, one or more of the water-soluble fecal metabolites was quantifiable using a commercially available testosterone radioimmunoassay. The biological relevance of this immunoactivity was confirmed in the domestic cat; concentrations were high in adult, intact males and nondetectable in intact females and castrated males and females. In addition, fecal androgen concentrations in a male Pallas' cat (Felis manul) exhibited seasonal fluctuations that corresponded with parallel changes in serum testosterone and ejaculate quality. These data indicate that testicular steroidogenic activity can be monitored non invasively in felids, providing a potentially valuable tool for endangered felid management to: (1) assess pubertal status, (2) determine the influence of season on reproduction, and (3) diagnose possible causes of sub- or infertility.