Flies, AS and Grant, CK and Mansfield, LS and Smith, EJ and Weldele, ML and Holekamp, KE, Development of a hyena immunology toolbox, Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology: An International Journal of Comparative Immunology, 145, (1-2) pp. 110-119. ISSN 0165-2427 (2012) [Refereed Article]
Animals that hunt and scavenge are often exposed to a broad array of pathogens. Theory
predicts the immune systems of animals specialized for scavenging should have been
molded by selective pressures associated with surviving microbial assaults from their food.
Spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) are capable hunters that have recently descended from
carrion feeding ancestors. Hyenas have been documented to survive anthrax and rabies
infections, and outbreaks of several other viral diseases that decimated populations of sympatric
carnivores. In light of the extreme disease resistance manifested by spotted hyenas,
our objective was to identify tools available for studying immune function in spotted hyenas
and use these tools to document the hyena antibody response to immunization. Domestic
cats (Felis catus) are the closest phylogenetic relatives of hyenas that have been studied
in detail immunologically, and we hypothesized that anti-cat isotype-specific antibodies
would cross react with hyena immunoglobulin epitopes. We used ELISA and Western blots
to testisotype-specific anti-feline antibodies for specific cross-reaction to hyena Ig epitopes.
Molecular weights of heavy (IgA, IgG, IgM) and light chains of hyena immunoglobulins were
determined by protein electrophoresis, and as expected, they were found to be similar to
feline immunoglobulins. In order to further validate the cross-reactivity of the anti-feline
antibodies and document the hyena humoral response, eight spotted hyenas were immunized
with dinitrophenol conjugated keyhole limpet hemocyanin (DNP-KLH) and serum
anti-DNP responses were monitored by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for
one year. The full array of isotype-specific antibodies identified here will allow veterinarians
and other researchers to thoroughly investigate the hyena antibody response, and can
be used in future studies to test hypotheses about pathogen exposure and immune function
in this species.