Simple and rapid LC–MS method for the determination of circulating albumin microheterogeneity in veal calves exposed to heat stress
Heat stress has a major impact on veal calves welfare and productivity. Prolonged exposure to warm temperature is associated with several alterations of physiologic processes and increased systemic inflammation and oxidative stress. Bovine serum albumin (BSA) is the most abundant plasma protein and, besides the regulation of osmotic pressure, carries several additional functions, including antioxidant, immunomodulatory, binding and transport activities. Such non-oncotic properties are closely related to structural integrity of the circulating molecule and may be compromised in stressful microenvironments as it occurs in heat stressed animals. Thus, in the present study we developed and validated an LC–MS analytical technique for the characterization of circulating BSA microheterogeneity in veal calves exposed to heat stress. The method was specifically tailored to the structural characteristics of the BSA molecule as well as to the complexity of the biological samples, allowing the identification of several BSA isoforms, each characterized by a specific structural defect. The mass spectrometry based approach enabled the identification of BSA isoforms with reversible and irreversible oxidation and/or glycation and the native BSA, the only isoform endowed with structural and functional integrity. We found that, in veal calves, heat stress is associated to a significant reduction of the native BSA and to a significant increment of the reversibly and irreversibly oxidized BSA. Then, by monitoring the BSA microheterogeneity over a period of moderate heat stress, we found that the native BSA as well as the glycated BSA increased significantly during the recovery period. Based on our results the analysis of the BSA microheterogeneity could represent a novel biomarker for the assessment of animal welfare during environmental stressful conditions.