Comparative metabolism of gestagens and estrogens in the four lynx species, the Eurasian (Lynx lynx), the Iberian (L. pardinus), the Canada lynx (L. canadensis) and the bobcat (L. rufus)
With the increasing prevalence of faecal hormone metabolite analysis, it is important to develop a better understanding of the dynamics of faecal metabolite composition. The aim of this study was to compare the quantitative faecal gestagen and estrogen metabolite composition in the four lynx species: Eurasian lynx, Iberian lynx, Canada lynx and bobcats. Comparative HPLC immunograms were generated from faecal samples collected before, during, and after pregnancy from individual females of each lynx species. Gestagens and estrogens revealed three similar classes of immunoreactive faecal metabolites: (1) polar metabolites which were enzyme-hydrolysable and thus may be designated as conjugates, (2) non-hydrolysable polar metabolites, and (3) non-polar metabolites or free steroids. For both hormones, strong similarities in the HPLC immunograms across species suggests that steroid metabolism is relatively conserved among Lynx species. Gestagens were primarily excreted as polar conjugates or unknown metabolites, whereas estrogen metabolism revealed a huge proportion (approximately 50%) consisting of 17beta-estradiol and estrone. These results are consistent with patterns of steroid metabolism in other felid species. Only two minor species-specific patterns emerged. In bobcats, we observed an exceptionally high proportion of gestagen conjugates, and in Iberian lynx, there was an exceptionally high proportion of estrone. The comparison of HPLC immunograms within individuals revealed that intra-individual variations in steroid metabolite composition are considerably high. However, changes in metabolite composition did not correlate with specific reproductive stages; rather, they seemed to occur at random. We assume that these differences may reflect changes in liver metabolism and/or qualitative and quantitative variations in gut bacteria composition, resulting in differences in faecal metabolite composition.