Objectives: To measure metabolic rates of the hexose monophosphate shunt (HMPS) in erythrocytes of rhinoceroses, and to test the hypothesis that low concentrations of endogenous ATP in erythrocytes impair HMPS capacity, thereby increasing susceptibility to oxidant-induced hemolysis.
Animals: 13 black and 3 white rhinoceroses, free-ranging in several regions of southern Africa, and 1 Sumatran rhinoceros in US captivity.
Procedure: HMPS fluxes were measured in rhinoceros erythrocytes with carbon-labeled glucose in the presence and absence of known HMPS activators.
Results: Compared with values for human erythrocytes, mean basal state HMPS fluxes were appreciably lower (22 to 46%) in all 3 rhinoceros species studied. Shunt activators increased HMPS rates approximately 5-fold over basal rates in rhinoceros erythrocytes, compared with increases in humans of 10-fold with ascorbate and 15-fold with methylene blue. Stimulated HMPS rates in human erythrocytes were quantitatively 5- to 10-times greater than those observed in rhinoceros erythrocytes. Overall HMPS catabolic rates were completely independent of intracellular ATP concentrations.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: HMPS glycolytic and recycling rates and responses to activators are inherently low in erythrocytes from 3 species of rhinoceros, likely contributing to (but not solely responsible for) the high susceptibility of black rhinoceroses to oxidant-induced hemolysis. Slow erythrocyte HMPS capacities were independent of intracellular ATP concentrations, invalidating a current hypothesis regarding the pathogenesis of hemolytic anemia in captive black rhinoceroses. Limitations in HMPS capacities emphasize the importance of protecting rhinoceroses from exposure to drugs, chemicals, toxins, foodstuffs, and other conditions known to increase production of oxidizing metabolites, reactive oxygen species, and free radicals.