Testosterone and estradiol concentrations in serum, velvet skin, and growing antler bone of male white-tailed deer
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The growth and mineralization of antlers correlate with the seasonal variation of serum androgens. Whereas seasonal levels of testosterone (T) in plasma are well established, steroid concentrations have not yet been determined in the tissues of growing antlers. Therefore, RIA was used to determine T and 17beta estradiol (E2) in serum, and three areas (tip, middle, and base) of the antler bone and the antler skin, called velvet. Blood and antler tissues of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) were collected from May to August. The difference between levels of T and E2 among the sites was calculated using the square root transformation followed by a mixed model analysis with individual deer and an interaction of individual and year (individual(*)year) as a random factor. Concentrations of T in serum (799+/-82 pg/ml) were higher than T values in the velvet (589+/-58 pg/ml, P<0.01) and in the antler bone (538+/-58 pg/ml, P<0.001). Estradiol concentrations differed among antler tissues and serum (P<0.001) and between years (P<0.01). Estradiol concentrations in serum (25+/-25 pg/ml) were consistently lower than those in antler bone (208+/-11 pg/ml, P<0.001) and velvet (150+/-12 pg/ml, P<0.001). The E2:T ratio in serum was 1:10-60. The same ratio for the antler bone was only 1:2-3 and for the velvet 1:3.5. It is concluded that higher T and lower E2 concentrations found in plasma, as compared to antler bone or antler velvet, may indicate a partial metabolism of systemic androgens into estrogens xin the tissues of growing antlers.
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