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Genome sequencing reveals insights into physiology and longevity of the naked mole rat

Nature Publishing Group
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1038/nature10533
  • Article
  • Biology
  • Medicine


The naked mole rat (NMR, Heterocephalus glaber) is a strictly subterranean, extraordinarily long-lived eusocial mammal1. Although the size of a mouse, its maximum lifespan exceeds 30 years and makes this animal the longest living rodent. NMRs show negligible senescence, no age-related increase in mortality, and high fecundity until death2. In addition to delayed aging, NMRs are resistant to both spontaneous cancer and experimentally induced tumorigenesis3,4. NMRs pose a challenge to the theories that link aging, cancer and redox homeostasis. Although characterized by significant oxidative stress5, the NMR proteome does not show age-related susceptibility to oxidative damage nor increased ubiquitination6. NMRs naturally reside in large colonies with a single breeding female, the “queen,” who suppresses the sexual maturity of her subordinates11. NMRs also live in full darkness, at low oxygen and high carbon dioxide concentrations7, and are unable to sustain thermogenesis8 nor feel certain types of pain9,10. Here we report sequencing and analysis of the NMR genome, which revealed unique genome features and molecular adaptations consistent with cancer resistance, poikilothermy, hairlessness, altered visual function, circadian rhythms and taste sensing, and insensitivity to low oxygen. This information provides insights into NMR’s exceptional longevity and capabilities to live in hostile conditions, in the dark and at low oxygen. The extreme traits of NMR, together with the reported genome and transcriptome information, offer unprecedented opportunities for understanding aging and advancing many other areas of biological and biomedical research.

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