Urocortin as a measure of stress in livestock
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Stress is a fact of life for every living thing. In livestock species, stress can affect an animal's performance, thus leading to decreased profit for producers. For decades, the stress response pathway has been the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis which includes corticotropin releasing hormone, which ultimately increases the levels of glucocorticoids in the animal's system. Recently, a new protein hormone, urocortin, has become a potential tool for evaluation of stress in humans and rodent models. Unfortunately, little is known of urocortin's role and importance in livestock species. In order to investigate this topic, a sensitive and specific radioimmunoassay for assessing urocortin was developed and shown functionally capable of detecting peripheral concentrations of urocortin in cattle, sheep, pigs, rats, and humans, but not in equine. We then evaluated serum concentrations of urocortin under presumed stressful conditions. We found that urocortin increased in steers in relation to dehydration, with equivocal response to heat stress. We also found that urocortin decreased in relation to parturition in sows. Finally we found that urocortin did not change in response to an epinephrine challenge in steers. The relevance of these investigations is that they provide a unique first opportunity to determine the dynamics of urocortin in livestock experiencing stressful scenarios. While further research is no doubt necessary, this initial exploration into the urocortin stress response has provided a unique opportunity to look into the management of stress in livestock.
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