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Lipidomics reveals specific lipid molecules associated with cold stress syndrome in the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris)


Cold stress syndrome (CSS) in the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) results in perturbations to many physiological pathways, often leading to further illness or death. In this study, we applied a non-targeted lipidomics approach with ultra-high performance liquid chromatography and high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry to characterize changes related to CSS in the lipidomic profiles of manatee plasma. Lipidomic analyses were conducted on healthy manatee (control) and cold-exposed manatee plasma samples with varying concentrations of Serum Amyloid A (SAA), an acute-phase protein that is associated with inflammatory disease. Control manatees (n = 10) were compared to all manatees exposed to cold temperatures (n = 17), and a subset of those manatees with SAA values > 120 μg/mL (n = 9). Increased SAA values were associated with higher levels of various acylcarnitine lipids, while several triacylglycerols and oxidized triacylglycerols were significantly lower in manatees with cold exposure. These identified lipids are critical molecules involved in the maintenance of energy homeostasis and could potentially be examined in conjunction with current physical parameters to characterize cold stress. The ability to detect such differences highlights the addition of lipidomics as a valuable tool in understanding cold stress and potentially other illnesses in manatees. Further investigation into the function of the altered lipids could greatly increase our understanding of lipid metabolism in physiologically stressed manatees as well as other marine mammals and inform future management recovery strategies.

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The datasets collected and analyzed in the present study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request. A table of the normalized semi-quantitative concentrations for all unique lipids identified in this study will be provided in a supplemental Excel file.

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This material is based on work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Award No. DBI-1757899. We are indebted to Dr. Robert Bonde and the manatee capture teams assembled by the USGS and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who provided opportunities to collect data and archive samples from wild manatees. Thank you to Dr. Fabio Casu at the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for statistical support. The study was completed during the 2018 Research Experience for Undergraduates program with the College of Charleston’s Grice Marine Laboratory, directed by Dr. Robert D. Podolsky. This is contribution No. 549 of the Grice Marine Laboratory, College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


This project was funded through the National Science Foundation [NSF DBI- 1757899].

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection, and analysis were performed by Emily K. Griffin, Kaylie Anne Costa, Juan J. Aristizabal-Henao, Michael P. Napolitano, Margaret E. Hunter, Jason A. Ferrante, and John A. Bowden. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Emily K. Griffin and Kaylie Anne Costa and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to John A. Bowden.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This study was carried out in accordance with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) (USFWS Research permit: MA-791721). USGS Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approved this study (USGS FISC 2009–01 and USGS SESC 2010–06).

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Griffin, E.K., Costa, K.A., Aristizabal-Henao, J.J. et al. Lipidomics reveals specific lipid molecules associated with cold stress syndrome in the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Mar Biol 168, 81 (2021).

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