The development of methods for immunophenotypic and lymphocyte function analyzes for assessment of Southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) health

Julie Schwartz, Brian Aldridge, Myra Blanchard, Frederick C Mohr, Jeffrey L Stott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The Southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The population began a pattern of slow decline in 1995. The decline was attributed to high adult mortality rates with infectious disease being the major cause of death. Multiple pathogens were implicated in these deaths including opportunistic pathogens such as Coccidiodes immitis and Toxoplasma sp. These findings suggested that the immunological health of mature animals in this population might be compromised. The primary goal of this study was to establish techniques for assessing phenotypic and functional baseline data for peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) in free-ranging sea otters. Standard total and differential white blood cell counts were augmented by emumeration of T and B lymphocyte subsets. Lymphocyte function was determined by both mitogen-induced proliferation and expression of IL-2 receptors. In addition to establishing normal ranges for adult animals, age-related changes were identified in B lymphocyte numbers and cell-surface density of major histocompatability complex class II (MHC II) proteins. The predominant lymphocyte subpopulation in Southern sea otters is the T lymphocyte. Substantial variation among individual animals was observed within the B lymphocyte population both in cell number and density of MHC II expression. Pups had greater numbers of T and B lymphocyte, as well as, greater MHC II expression on B lymphocytes than adults. Mitogen-induced proliferation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) was variable among individual animals with no significant difference in cell response between age class and gender. Concanavalin (ConA) was a more effective mitogen in stimulating proliferation and interleukin (IL)-2 receptor expression than pokeweed. This data can be used to augment routine hematology profiles and aid in the identification of animals with immunologic perturbations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalVeterinary Immunology and Immunopathology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 10 2005


  • Immunological assays
  • Immunophenotype
  • Lymphocyte function
  • Southern sea otter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Immunology
  • veterinary(all)


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