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Brown, J. L., Wasser, S. K., Wildt, D. E., & Graham, L. H. (1994). Comparative Aspects of Steroid Hormone Metabolism and Ovarian Activity in Felids, Measured Noninvasively in Feces. Biol Reprod, 51(4), 776–786.
Abstract: Noninvasive fecal assays were used to study steroid metabolism and ovarian activity in several felid species. Using the domestic cat (Felis catus) as model, the excretory products of injected [14C]estradiol (E2) and [14C]progesterone (P4) were determined. Within 2 days, 97.0 +/- 0.6% and 96.7 +/- 0.5% of recovered E2 and P4 radioactivity, respectively, was found in feces. E2 was excreted as unconjugated estradiol and estrone (40%) and as a non-enzyme- hydrolyzable conjugate (60%). P4 was excreted primarily as non-enzyme- hydrolyzable, conjugated metabolites (78%) and as unconjugated pregnenolone epimers. A simple method for extracting fecal steroid metabolites optimized extraction efficiencies of the E2 and P4 excretion products (90.1 +/- 0.8% and 87.2 +/- 1.4%, respectively). Analysis of HPLC fractions of extracted fecal samples from the radiolabel-injected domestic cats revealed that E2 immunoreactivity coincided primarily with the unconjugated metabolized [14C]E2 peak, whereas progestogen immunoreactivity coincided with a single conjugated epimer and multiple unconjugated pregnenolone epimers. After HPLC separation, similar immunoreactive E2 and P4 metabolite profiles were observed in the leopard cat (F. bengalensis), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), and snow leopard (Panthera uncia). Longitudinal analyses demonstrated that changes in fecal E2 and P4 metabolite concentrations reflected natural or artificially induced ovarian activity. For example, severalfold increases in E2 excretion were associated with overt estrus or exogenous gonadotropin treatment, and elevated fecal P4 metabolite concentrations occurred during pregnant and nonpregnant (pseudopregnant) luteal phases. Although overall concentrations were similar, the duration of elevated fecal P4 metabolites during pseudopregnancy was approximately half that observed during pregnancy. In summary, steroid metabolism mechanisms appear to be conserved among these physically diverse, taxonomically related species. Results indicate that this hormone-monitoring approach will be extremely useful for elucidating the hormonal regulatory mechanism associated with the reproductive cycle, pregnancy, and parturition of intractable and endangered felid species.