• saliva;
  • cortisol;
  • squirrel monkey;
  • sampling technique;
  • HPA


The use of noninvasive measures of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function is of growing interest among preclinical and clinical investigators. This report describes a method for the repeated assessment of salivary free cortisol in awake, unrestrained squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) based on a saliva sampling technique previously developed for rhesus monkeys. Individually housed adult male squirrel monkeys were trained to chew on dental rope attached to a pole, from which saliva was extracted by centrifugation and analyzed for cortisol by radioimmunoassay (RIA). Eight of nine monkeys readily acquired the task, reliably providing adequate saliva samples for the assay. Salivary free cortisol levels were examined in these subjects under basal conditions and in response to two types of neuroendocrine challenge. Levels of salivary free cortisol showed relatively low intra- and interindividual variability, with mean individual morning levels ranging between 17.1 and 37.9 µg/dl. Squirrel monkeys demonstrated a consistent daily rhythm in salivary free cortisol ranging from a high of 27.4 ± 5.2 µg/dl (mean ± SEM) at 12 P.M. to a low of 7.5 ± 1.6 µg/dl at 6 P.M.. Intravenous (IV) challenges with 1 µg/kg ACTH, or 10 and 50 µg/kg CRF resulted in significant increases in salivary free cortisol. The described sampling technique provides a reliable and sensitive means for repeated measurement of HPA activity in unrestrained, awake squirrel monkeys. In addition, our findings illustrate several features of HPA system rhythmicity and reactivity using salivary cortisol instead of blood plasma or serum. Am. J. Primatol. 60:69–75, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.