Characterization and quantification of corticosteroid-binding globulin in a southern toad, Bufo terrestris, exposed to coal-combustion-waste

Chelsea K. Ward, Cristiano Fontes, Creagh W. Breuner, Mary T. Mendonça

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Corticosteroid-binding globulin (CBG) is a plasma protein that binds corticosterone and may regulate access of hormone to tissues. The role of CBG during a stress response is not clear. At least two hypotheses have been proposed: 1) CBG levels may increase in response to a stressor, thereby decreasing the amount of circulating free corticosterone, or 2) CBG levels may decline, making corticosterone available for its role in increased metabolic needs during stress. In this study, southern toads, Bufo terrestris, were exposed to a chronic pollutant (coal-combustion-waste), to determine changes in CBG and free corticosterone levels. Since toads exposed to chronic pollutants in previous studies did not exhibit the predicted changes in metabolic rate and mass, but did experience a significant elevation in total corticosterone, we hypothesized that CBG would likewise increase and thus, mitigate the effects of a chronic (i.e. 2 months) pollutant stressor. To conduct this study, we first characterized the properties of CBG in southern toads. Toad CBG has a Kd = 20.6 ± 1.0 nM and a Bmax = 332.2 ± 5.1 nmol/L plasma. The rank order potencies for steroid inhibition of tritiated corticosterone are: dihydrotestosterone > corticosterone ≫ progesterone = testosterone ⋙ estrogen = dexamethasone. After characterization, we monitored the changes in CBG, total corticosterone, and free corticosterone in male toads that were exposed to either coal-combustion-waste or control conditions. CBG increased in all groups throughout the experiment. Total corticosterone, on the other hand, was only significantly elevated at four weeks of exposure to coal-combustion-waste. The increase in CBG did not parallel the increase in total corticosterone; as a result, free corticosterone levels were not buffered by CBG, but showed a peak at four weeks similar to total corticosterone. This finding indicates that, in this species, CBG may not provide a protective mechanism during long-term pollution exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-88
Number of pages7
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 15 2007


  • Amphibian
  • Corticosteroid-binding globulin
  • Corticosterone
  • Metal
  • Stress


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