Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Sciences

Department name when degree awarded


Committee Chair(s)

Joseph Street


Joseph Street


LeGrande Ellis


R. P. Sharma


The purpose of this study was to investigate natural killer cell activity and the possible role of beta- endorphin in a natural model of autoimmune orchitis, the dark mink.

An assay was developed to study natural killer cell activity in the mink and base-line levels of activity in this specie were determined. Natural killer cell activity was assessed in fertile mutation mink, primary infertile dark mink and secondary infertile Utah dark mink with autoimmune orchitis. The study included three sampling times: November, March and April. Natural killer cell activity was significantly lower in mink studied in April than it was in. mink studied in March or November, and there was a significant correlation of activity to fertility. The addition of beta-endorphin to natural killer cell cultures had no effect on activity.

A preliminary study was done to determine concentration levels of beta-endorphin in mink plasma, pituitary, hypothalamus and testes. Measurable amounts were found in all tissue types studied. Although the number of samples was too limited to draw significant conclusions, there appears to be a trend toward lower beta-endorphin concentration, in pituitary tissue and plasma samples, of mink with autoimmune orchitis. Beta-endorphin levels did not appear to correlate with natural killer cell activity in the mink.

Two assays, the natural killer assay and the blasto-genesis assay, were used to insure that the beta-endorphin preparation used in this study were active. Natural killer cell activity had been reported to be enhanced by the addition of beta-endorphin. In the present study natural killer cell activity of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) was enhanced in the presence of betaendorphin, suggesting that the peptide was active. In addition, the blastogenic response of human PBMC was enhanced by the addition of beta-endorphin to cultures in the present study.



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