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Quantification of a glucocorticoid profile in non-pooled samples is pivotal in stress research across vertebrates

Created by Johan Aerts | Publications

Manuscript on invitation critically reviewing the pertinent literature regarding the pitfalls in glucocorticoid analysis across tissues and vertebrate species.

Vertebrates are faced continuously with a variety of potential stressful stimuli and react by a highly conserved endocrine stress response. An immediate catecholamine mediated response increases plasma glucose levels in order to prepare the organism for the ‘fight or flight’ reaction. In addition, in a matter of minutes after this (nor)adrenaline release, glucocorticoids, in particular cortisol or corticosterone depending on the species, are released through activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-interrenal axis in fish or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in other vertebrates. These plasma glucocorticoids are well documented and widely used as biomarker for stress across vertebrates.

In order to study the role of glucocorticoids in acute and chronic stress and gain in-depth insight in the stress axis (re)activity across vertebrates, it is pivotal to pin-point the involved molecules, to understand the mechanisms of how the latter are synthesized, regulated and excreted, and to grasp their actions on a plethora of biological processes. Furthermore, in-depth knowledge on the characteristics of the tissues as well as on the analytical methodologies available for glucocorticoid quantification is needed.

This manuscript is to be situated in the multi-disciplinary research topic of glucocorticoid action across vertebrates which is linked to a wide range of research domains including but not limited to biochemistry, ecology, endocrinology, ethology, histology, immunology, morphology, physiology, and toxicology, and provides a solid base for all interested in stress, in particular glucocorticoid, related research. In this framework, internationally validated confirmation methods for quantification of a glucocorticoid profile comprising:

  1. the dominant hormone;
  2. its direct precursors;
  3. its endogenously present phase I metabolites; and
  4. the most abundant more polar excreted exogenous phase I metabolites in non-pooled samples are pivotal.

MEDIA: Front. Endocrinol. 9:635