Scientists find differences in naked mole rat's protein disposers

May 11, 2012, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
The naked mole rat is one animal model of aging under study at the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies. The institute is at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. Credit: Barshop Institute/UT Health Science Center San Antonio

The naked mole rat, a curiously strange, hairless rodent, lives many years longer than any other mouse or rat. Scientists at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio's Barshop Institute of Longevity and Aging Studies continue to explore this mystery.

On May 2 a Barshop Institute team reported that the naked mole rat's cellular machines for protein disposal — called proteasome assemblies — differ in composition from those of other short-lived rodents. The study is in the journal PLoS ONE.

This is the first report of the molecular mechanisms that underlie the naked mole-rat's superior ability to maintain protein integrity. "More effective removal of damaged proteins within the cell would enable the animal to be able to maintain good function and is likely to contribute to its excellent maintenance of good health well into its third decade of life," said Rochelle Buffenstein, Ph.D., of the Barshop Institute. Dr. Buffenstein is a professor of physiology and cellular and structural biology in the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center.

Protein integrity

Dr. Buffenstein and her research team in 2009 reported that the naked mole-rat maintains exceptional protein integrity throughout its long and healthy life. In the new study, the team found a greater number of proteasomes and higher protein-disposal activity in liver cells.

The Barshop Institute scientists, including lead author Karl Rodriguez, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow, and Yael Edrey, graduate student, also found large numbers of immunoproteasomes in the liver cells — a bit of a surprise because these disposers, which remove antigens after presentation in the immune system, are more commonly found in the spleen and thymus.

"Given the high levels of oxidative damage routinely seen in liver tissue of naked mole-rats, it is likely that, in the liver, these immunoproteasomes may play a critical role in the processing of oxidatively damaged proteins," Dr. Buffenstein said.

Oxidative stress

Oxygen is a reactive molecule, rusting unsealed metals and darkening fruit. In the body over time, it is thought to cause an accumulation of damage leading to functional decline, diseases and aging. This is called the oxidative stress theory of aging.

Naked mole-rats, which live underground in the wild, exhibit high levels of oxidative stress even at a young age, yet do not show many signs of age-related decline until very late in life.

"The composition of proteasomes and the presence of immunoproteasomes in the liver are key pieces of the jigsaw puzzle evaluating how naked mole-rats preserve health span well into their third decade of life," Dr. Buffenstein said.

Explore further: Long-lived rodents have high levels of brain-protecting factor

Related Stories

Long-lived rodents have high levels of brain-protecting factor

May 10, 2012
The typical naked mole rat lives 25 to 30 years, during which it shows little decline in activity, bone health, reproductive capacity and cognitive ability. What is the secret to this East African rodent's long, healthy life?

Scientists identify genes that may signal long life in naked mole-rats

November 3, 2011
Scientists at the University of Liverpool have identified high levels of a number of genes in the naked mole-rat that may suggest why they live longer than other rodents and demonstrate resistance to age-related diseases.

Recommended for you

Researchers devise decoy molecule to block pain where it starts

January 16, 2018
For anyone who has accidentally injured themselves, Dr. Zachary Campbell not only sympathizes, he's developing new ways to blunt pain.

Scientists unleash power of genetic data to identify disease risk

January 16, 2018
Massive banks of genetic information are being harnessed to shed new light on modifiable health risks that underlie common diseases.

Blood-vessel-on-a-chip provides insight into new anti-inflammatory drug candidate

January 15, 2018
One of the most important and fraught processes in the human body is inflammation. Inflammatory responses to injury or disease are crucial for recruiting the immune system to help the body heal, but inflammation can also ...

Molecule produced by fat cells reduces obesity and diabetes in mice

January 15, 2018
UC San Francisco researchers have discovered a new biological pathway in fat cells that could explain why some people with obesity are at high risk for metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. The new findings—demonstrated ...

Obese fat becomes inflamed and scarred, which may make weight loss harder

January 12, 2018
The fat of obese people becomes distressed, scarred and inflamed, which can make weight loss more difficult, research at the University of Exeter has found.

Optimized human peptide found to be an effective antibacterial agent

January 11, 2018
A team of researchers in the Netherlands has developed an effective antibacterial ointment based on an optimized human peptide. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes developing ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.