Scientists find differences in naked mole rat's protein disposers

May 11, 2012
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

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids

July 18, 2017
Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in marijuana and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. A well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, is responsible for some of its ...

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.