Investigating genetic and health factors related to AA amyloidosis prevalence in captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus): implications for population management
Franklin, Ashley Danielle
Porter, Tom E
Crosier, Adrienne E
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Systemic amyloid A (AA) amyloidosis is an increasingly important cause of morbidity and mortality among captive cheetahs, yet wild cheetahs are virtually unaffected, suggesting the phenomenon is a result of the captive condition. The self-aggregating AA protein responsible for this disease, is a byproduct of serum amyloid A (SAA) protein degradation, an acute phase protein highly upregulated during inflammation. The objective of this study was to identify the relationship between genetics, stress, and inflammation with serum concentrations of the SAA protein and the incidence of AA amyloidosis in captive cheetahs. Fecal and serum samples collected from cheetahs held at the Smithsonian (NZP-SCBI) and Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) facilities, as well as wild, free-ranging cheetahs, were examined. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays were used to measure SAA protein and proinflammatory cytokine concentrations in serum samples and cortisol concentrations in feces. Additionally, cheetahs were genotyped for the SAA1A<super>-97delG</super> single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the promoter region of the SAA1 gene. This study was the first to demonstrate that serum concentrations of the SAA protein in cheetahs are affected by the SAA1A<super>-97delG</super> SNP (P=0.0453). However, the high prevalence of AA amyloidosis observed among captive cheetahs is not attributable to genetic differences at this locus, but rather appears to be related to stress and/or inflammation, as captive cheetahs at NZP-SCBI have significantly higher SAA protein concentrations in serum compared to captive cheetahs at CCF, regardless of genotype (P=0.0003). Captive cheetahs at NZP-SCBI show levels of stress (fecal cortisol concentrations) greater than their captive counterparts at CCF in Namibia. Interestingly, wild cheetahs and captive cheetahs at CCF in Namibia had significantly higher proinflammatory cytokine concentrations (TNF-α and IL-1β) in serum compared to cheetahs at NZP-SCBI (P<0.0001). It is possible that chronic stress may be suppressing the production of proinflammatory cytokines in the NZP-SCBI cheetah population. Controlling the currently high SAA protein concentrations associated with AA amyloidosis is the best strategy to decreasing the diseases prevalence among captive cheetahs. Promoting management practices that reduce stress could help re-establish proper immune system homeostasis and mitigate the overproduction of SAA protein, decreasing the probability of developing AA amyloidosis.