Cortisol metabolism in the Bolivian squirrel monkey (Saimiri boliviensis boliviensis)

Jonathan G. Scammell, Jenne M. Westberry, Patti W. Sadosky, Tina R. Hubler, Lawrence E. Williams, Susan V. Gibson, Ravinder J. Singh, Robert L. Taylor, Cedric H.L. Shackleton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


New World squirrel monkeys (Saimiri spp.) have high circulating cortisol levels but normal electrolytes and blood pressures. The goal of the present study was to gain insight into adaptive mechanisms used by Bolivian squirrel monkeys to minimize the effects of high cortisol on mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) activity and electrolyte and water balance. Aldosterone levels in serum from 10 squirrel monkeys were 17.7 ± 3.4 ng/dl (normal range in humans, 4 to 31 ng/dl), suggesting that squirrel monkeys do not exhibit a compensatory increase in aldosterone. The squirrel monkey MR was cloned and expressed in COS-7 cells and found to have similar responsiveness to cortisol and aldosterone as human MR, suggesting that squirrel monkey MR is not inherently less responsive to cortisol. To determine whether altered metabolism of cortisol might contribute to MR protection in squirrel monkeys, serum and urinary cortisol and cortisone were measured, and a comprehensive urinary corticosteroid metabolite profile was performed in samples from anesthetized and awake squirrel monkeys. The levels of cortisone exceeded those of cortisol in serum and urine, suggesting increased peripheral 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 2 activity in squirrel monkeys. In addition, a significant fraction (approximately 20%) of total corticosteroids excreted in the urine of squirrel monkeys appeared as 6β-hydroxycortisol, compared with that in man (1%). Therefore, changes in cortisol metabolism likely contribute to adaptive mechanisms used by Bolivian squirrel monkeys to minimize effects of high cortisol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-135
Number of pages8
JournalComparative medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • veterinary(all)


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