Dolphins are aquatic animals free from gravity, and this may have imposed significant changes in their cardiovascular status and its hormonal regulation compared with terrestrial animals. This study molecularly characterized two major cardiovascular hormones, atrial and B-type natriuretic peptides (ANP and BNP) and measured their changes in dolphin plasma concentrations in relation to the cardiovascular status of the animal. We initially identified ANP and BNP in three species of dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens, Phocoenoides dalli and Tursiops truncatus). ANP precursors are highly conserved in most mammals, but dolphin BNP precursors were more variable. In molecular phylogenetic analyses, dolphin ANP and BNP precursors grouped with those of artiodactyls, particularly to the camel peptides. The chromatographic characterization of tissue and plasma molecular forms using specific radioimmunoassays showed that the predominant ANP and BNP in the atrium are prohormone and mature peptide, respectively, whereas mature ANP and BNP are circulating in the dolphin blood. A mass spectrometric analysis showed that atrial BNP consists of 26 amino acids, rather than the 32-amino-acid form detected in other mammals. Finally, changes in plasma ANP and BNP concentrations were examined in captive bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) after their pool was drained. Plasma ANP and BNP concentrations did not change after landing, unlike terrestrial mammals. Plasma angiotensin II and cortisol concentrations did not change either, showing minor stress after landing. Since landed dolphins show a different cardiovascular status on land than terrestrial mammals, plasma ANP and BNP concentrations seem to reflect the cardiovascular status characteristic of dolphins.
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