Development of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for luteinizing hormone (LH) in the elephant (Loxodonta africana and Elephas maximus)


A simple, rapid enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for the measurement of LH in plasma and serum of elephants (Loxodonta africana and Elephas maximus) has been developed, validated, and used for comparative studies. Purified elephant LH (eleLH) diluted in elephant plasma was used as standards (0.78-50 ng/ml). A monoclonal antibody against the β-subunit of bovine LH (518B ) was used as the capture antibody. The second antibody (a polyclonal rabbit anti-human LH antibody), conjugated to horseradish peroxidase, cleaved a substrate (tetramethyl benzidine), resulting in a color change. The total assay time was approximately 2 1/2 hr, with incubations at room temperature. Sensitivity was found to be 1.56 ng/ml. Cross-reactivities to elephant FSH and TSH were low: 0.9% and 0.15%, respectively. The accuracy of the assay was demonstrated by comparing the ELISA with a validated eleLH radioimmunoassay (RIA), progesterone data, and ultrasound observations. Blood samples from 18 Asian and African elephant cows were analyzed with the ELISA and RIA, and an additional 11 cows were used to describe endocrine parameters for LH and progesterone using only RIA. No difference was found in LH peak concentrations between the ELISA and RIA. The time from the progesterone decline to the first LH peak, and the time between the two peaks were similar between species. Asian cows had higher LH peaks than African cows. Ultrasound confirmed the time of ovulation occurring with the second LH peak. Three cows were inseminated and confirmed to be pregnant using this ELISA as a timing device. Instrumentation is not always required, as LH peaks approximating 3 ng/ml can be visually observed. In conclusion, this ELISA can be used as a field test to determine time of ovulation for artificial insemination (AI) or natural breeding of both species of elephants, and thus is an important tool for the preservation of captive populations worldwide.


Animal Science

Document Type





Artificial insemination, Female reproductive hormones, Ovulation

Publication Date


Journal Title

Zoo Biology