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This article in JAS

  1. Vol. 90 No. 12, p. 4611-4617
    Received: Feb 22, 2012
    Published: January 20, 2015

    2 Corresponding author(s):


A comparison of the metabolism of the abortifacient compounds from Ponderosa pine needles in conditioned versus naïve cattle1

  1. K. D. Welch 2,
  2. D. R. Gardner*,
  3. J. A. Pfister*,
  4. K. E. Panter*,
  5. J. Zieglar and
  6. J. O. Hall
  1. USDA-ARS Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory, Logan, UT 84341
    Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, 99163
    Utah State University, Logan, 84322


Isocupressic acid (ICA) is the abortifacient compound in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa L.) needles, which can cause late-term abortions in cattle (Bos taurus). However, cattle rapidly metabolize ICA to agathic acid (AGA) and subsequent metabolites. When pine needles are dosed orally to cattle, no ICA is detected in their serum, whereas AGA is readily detected. Recent research has demonstrated that AGA is also an abortifacient compound in cattle. The observation has been made that when cattle are dosed with labdane acids for an extended time, the concentration of AGA in serum increases for 1 to 2 d but then decreases to baseline after 5 to 6 d even though they are still being dosed twice daily. Therefore, in this study we investigated whether cattle conditioned to pine needles metabolize ICA, and its metabolites, faster than naïve cattle. Agathic acid was readily detected in the serum of naïve cattle fed ponderosa pine needles, whereas very little AGA was detected in the serum of cattle conditioned to pine needles. We also compared the metabolism of ICA in vitro using rumen cultures from pine-needle-conditioned and naïve cattle. In the rumen cultures from conditioned cattle, AGA concentrations were dramatically less than rumen cultures from naïve cattle. Thus, an adaptation occurs to cattle conditioned to pine needles such that the metabolism AGA by the rumen microflora is altered.

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Copyright © 2012. American Society of Animal Science