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  • Author or Editor: Donald E. Paglia x
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Objective—To investigate the possibility that excessive maternal iron (overload) may contribute to development of congenital leukoencephalomalacia in captive black rhinoceroses.

Sample Population—Tissue specimens and serum samples from 18 rhinoceroses in 2 kindreds harboring 4 (possibly 5) affected female calves.

Procedure—Fresh and archival sera and necropsy tissue specimens were evaluated to determine the nature and extent of iron overload in captive and wild black rhinoceroses as well as other rhinoceros species.

Results—Quantitative serum and tissue assays of iron and iron analytes, corroborated by histopathologic findings, indicated that these kindreds carried the greatest body burdens of iron yet found among captive black rhinoceroses. Fourteen of 18 rhinoceroses had the highest serum ferritin concentrations measured among 64 black rhinoceroses in captivity in the United States. Dams of affected calves had serum ferritin concentrations 2 orders of magnitude higher than clinically normal humans, equids, or free-ranging rhinoceroses. A neonatal serum sample from 1 affected female calf had a high ferritin concentration (approx 100-fold increase), but a male sibling of another affected female did not, suggesting a possible sex disparity in fetal response to maternal iron overload. Morphologic hallmarks of hemochromatosis were prominent in dams and grandams of affected calves.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Excessive maternal iron may affect female fetuses more than males, possibly inducing leukoencephalomalacia by catalyzing production of highly toxic hydroxyl free radicals during crucial periods of in utero development. Reduction of maternal iron overload may decrease the probability of developing leukoencephalomalacia and some other disorders commonly affecting rhinoceroses in captivity. (Am J Vet Res 2001;62:343–349)

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in American Journal of Veterinary Research


Objectives—To measure metabolic rates of the hexose monophosphate shunt (HMPS) in erythrocytes of rhinoceroses, and to test the hypothesis that low concentrations of endogenous ATP in erythrocytes impair HMPS capacity, thereby increasing susceptibility to oxidant-induced hemolysis.

Animals—13 black and 3 white rhinoceroses, freeranging in several regions of southern Africa, and 1 Sumatran rhinoceros in US captivity.

Procedure—HMPS fluxes were measured in rhinoceros erythrocytes with carbon-labeled glucose in the presence and absence of known HMPS activators.

Results—Compared with values for human erythrocytes, mean basal state HMPS fluxes were appreciably lower (22 to 46%) in all 3 rhinoceros species studied. Shunt activators increased HMPS rates approximately 5-fold over basal rates in rhinoceros erythrocytes, compared with increases in humans of 10-fold with ascorbate and 15-fold with methylene blue. Stimulated HMPS rates in human erythrocytes were quantitatively 5- to 10-times greater than those observed in rhinoceros erythrocytes. Overall HMPS catabolic rates were completely independent of intracellular ATP concentrations.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—HMPS glycolytic and recycling rates and responses to activators are inherently low in erythrocytes from 3 species of rhinoceros, likely contributing to (but not solely responsible for) the high susceptibility of black rhinoceroses to oxidant-induced hemolysis. Slow erythrocyte HMPS capacities were independent of intracellular ATP concentrations, invalidating a current hypothesis regarding the pathogenesis of hemolytic anemia in captive black rhinoceroses. Limitations in HMPS capacities emphasize the importance of protecting rhinoceroses from exposure to drugs, chemicals, toxins, foodstuffs, and other conditions known to increase production of oxidizing metabolites, reactive oxygen species, and free radicals.(Am J Vet Res 2001;62:1113–1117)

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in American Journal of Veterinary Research