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Undergraduate Research Project Management System

Detoxification and Elimination of α-pinene in North American Porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum) at the Alaska Zoo

Status Complete
Seeking Researchers No
Start Date 07/01/2008
End Date 06/30/2009
Funding Source Community Award
Funding Amount
Community Partner Alaska Zoo
Related Course
Last Updated 06/26/2009 10:07PM
Keywords porcupine

People

Faculty
  Ann Jache, Donald Spalinger

Student Researchers
  Rachael Lehmkuhl

Abstract

North American porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum) are known to consume high concentrations of chemical toxins, such as terpenes, which are produced by plants. These compounds are abundant in conifer needles and cambium which is commonly consumed by porcupines. Previous studies have found that eucalyptus feeding herbivores such as the koala, great glider, and ringtail possum have efficient oxidative pathways used to eliminate and detoxify terpenes (Boyle, 1999 & Pass, 2001). However, no studies have been performed on porcupines to see if they too have these efficient oxidative pathways for the terpene, alpha-pinene. In this study, alpha -pinene will be injected into the food of two porcupines at the Alaska Zoo. Quantitative analysis of the metabolites in the urine will be performed using gas and liquid chromatography. Glucuronic acid will be tested and measured to indicate the presence of additional detoxification pathways. The specific aim of the study is to find out whether increasing the dose of α-pinene will saturate the oxidation. This will determine (1) whether the oxidation pathway is the only pathway, (2) the rate at which the pathway is saturated (its kinetics), and (3) if the porcupine can further conjugate compounds using other pathways (such as conjugation) when the oxidation pathway is saturated. Understanding how porcupines detoxify and eliminate alpha -pinene will enhance comprehension of porcupine ability to survive on such a nutritionally limited diet. This knowledge can be used to develop further investigations of porcupine detoxification along with other mammals. Future research may be used to develop evidence-based practice and regulation regarding toxins in the environment.

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