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  • Author or Editor: Bruce H. Williams x
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Objectives—To characterize protein composition of shell scute of desert tortoises and to determine whether detectable differences could be used to identify healthy tortoises from tortoises with certain illnesses.

Animals—20 desert tortoises.

Procedures—Complete postmortem examinations were performed on all tortoises. Plastron scute proteins were solubilized, scute proteins were separated by use of sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), and proteins were analyzed, using densitometry. Two-dimensional immobilized pH gradient-PAGE (2D IPG-PAGE) and immunoblot analysis, using polyclonal antisera to chicken-feather β keratin and to alligator-scale β keratin, were conducted on representative samples. The 14-kd proteins were analyzed for amino acid composition.

Results—The SDS-PAGE and densitometry revealed 7 distinct bands, each with a mean relative protein concentration of > 1%, ranging from 8 to 47 kd, and a major protein component of approximately 14 kd that constituted up to 75% of the scute protein. The 2D IPG-PAGE revealed additional distinct 62- and 68- kd protein bands. On immunoblot analysis, the 14-, 32-, and 45-kd proteins reacted with both antisera. The 14-kd proteins had an amino acid composition similar to that of chicken β keratins. There was a substantial difference in the percentage of the major 14- kd proteins from scute of ill tortoises with normal appearing shells, compared with 14-kd proteins of healthy tortoises.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—The major protein components of shell scute of desert tortoises have amino acid composition and antigenic features of β keratins. Scute protein composition may be altered in tortoises with certain systemic illnesses. ( Am J Vet Res 2001;62:104–110)

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in American Journal of Veterinary Research


Objective—To characterize clinical signs and lesions and identify the etiologic agent associated with epizootic catarrhal enteritis in domestic ferrets.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Animals—119 ferrets with epizootic diarrhea of presumed viral cause and 5 control ferrets.

Procedure—Clinical records and biopsy or necropsy specimens of ferrets with presumed epizootic catarrhal enteritis were reviewed. Immunohistochemical staining for coronavirus antigen was performed on paraffin-embedded tissues from approximately 10% of affected ferrets to identify viral antigen and determine its distribution. Transmission electron microscopy was performed on fecal samples and sections of jejunum. Virus isolation studies as well as immunofluorescent tests for other similar viruses were performed.

Results—Characteristic microscopic lesions consistent with intestinal coronavirus infection (vacuolar degeneration and necrosis of villus enterocytes; villus atrophy, fusion, and blunting; and lymphocytic enteritis) were consistently detected in affected ferrets. Coronavirus particles were identified in feces and jejunal enterocytes by use of transmission electron microscopy. Immunohistochemical staining of jejunal sections revealed coronavirus antigens. Antigen staining was not detected in healthy ferrets or ferrets with other gastrointestinal tract diseases. Virus isolation was unsuccessful, and other similar viruses were not detected.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results strongly implicate a coronavirus as the causative agent of epizootic catarrhal enteritis in ferrets. Diagnosis may be made on the basis of a combination of historical, clinical, and microscopic findings. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;217:526–530)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association