Comparative analysis of ACTH and corticosterone sampling methods in rats.
A frequently debated question for studies involving the measurement of stress hormones in rodents is the optimal method for collecting blood with minimal stress to the animal. Some investigators prefer the implantation of indwelling catheters to allow for frequent sampling. Others argue that the implantation of a catheter creates a chronic stress to the animal that confounds stress hormone measures and therefore rely on tail vein sampling. Moreover, some investigators measure hormones in trunk blood samples obtained after anesthesia, a practice that may itself raise hormone levels. To address these controversies, we 1) compared plasma ACTH and corticosterone (Cort) concentrations in pre- and poststress rat blood samples obtained via previously implanted vena cava catheters, tail vein nicks, or clipping the tip off the tail and 2) compared plasma ACTH and Cort in rat blood samples obtained by decapitation with and without anesthesia. Rats sampled via indwelling catheters displayed lower prestress ACTH levels than those sampled by tail vein nick if the time to acquire samples was not limited; however, elevated basal ACTH was not observed in samples obtained by tail clip or tail nick when the samples were obtained within 3 min. Baseline Cort levels were similar in all groups. After restraint stress, the profile of the plasma ACTH and Cort responses was not affected by sampling method. Decapitation with prior administration of CO2 or pentobarbital sodium increased plasma ACTH levels approximately 13- and 2-fold, respectively, when compared with decapitation without anesthesia. These data indicate that tail vein nicking, tail clipping, or indwelling venous catheters can be used for obtaining plasma for ACTH and Cort during acute stress studies without confounding the measurements. However, the elevation in basal ACTH seen in the tail vein nick group at baseline suggests that sampling needs to be completed rapidly (<3 min) to avoid the initiation of the pituitary stress response. Death by CO2 and pentobarbital sodium injection before trunk blood collection cause significant stress to animals, as reflected in the elevated plasma ACTH levels. These results support the use of either chronic vascular cannulas or sampling from a tail vein. However, collection of blood under pentobarbital sodium or CO2 anesthesia is likely to confound the results of stress studies when ACTH is an important endpoint.
Vahl, TP; Ulrich-Lai, YM; Ostrander, MM; Dolgas, CM; Elfers, EE; Seeley, RJ; D'Alessio, DA; Herman, JP
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