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The naked mole rat may provide the secret of hypoxic survival

Part of the naked mole rat in the colony of Dr. Pamentor at the University of Ottawa. Credit: Antoine Morin

Researchers at the University of Ottawa have found a way for the naked mole rat to save energy in hypoxia and survive in hypoxia. The mechanism by which these wrinkled, almost hairless African mammals tolerate hypoxia provides humans with clues as to how nature has solved the problem of hypoxia tolerance.

Their study, “The heat generation of brown fat in the naked mole rat is reduced by a rapid decrease in UCP during hypoxia,” Nature Communications..

For more information, we spoke with Matthew Pamenter, an associate professor of biology at the University of Ottawa and head of the Pamenter Lab, senior author.

Please tell us more about this research.

“The thermoregulation, or heat production, is very large energy Demand for small rodents. However, in hypoxia (lack of oxygen to reach the tissues of the body), saving energy is the key to survival. We are studying the naked mole rat, one of the most hypoxic tolerant mammals. They reduce metabolic rate by up to 85% in severe hypoxia.

“We wanted to know how there is a” trade-off “between thermoregulation and energy savings in hypoxia. Through a new mechanism, it was found to shut down non-shivering heat generation (brown adipose tissue of mitochondria) very quickly. “

Hypoxia tolerance: The naked mole rat may provide the secret of hypoxia survival

Image A: Naked mole rat under normal oxygen conditions. The bright yellow / red / orange color indicates that the area between the shoulder blades is the hottest part of the animal. This is where most of the brown adipose tissue is located and is therefore the main source of heat generated from non-trembling heat generation. Image B: The same animal with hypoxia. Animals are dark in color and very close to the background color, indicating that the animal’s body temperature has basically dropped to ambient temperature (or just slightly above). Credit: Dr. Matthew Pamenter

What is this new mechanism?

“This mechanism is a very rapid removal of uncoupled protein 1 (UCP1) from brown adipose tissue cells in the scapula, although this can be done within an hour of exposure to moderately low oxygen. In other small rodents, it takes more than 3 days to reduce UCP1. This is a major step in understanding how brown adipose tissue saves energy in hypoxic conditions and survives in hypoxic environments.

“We also found that similar rapid changes in UCP1 occur in hypoxic exposure in the other three social species, the mole rat, but not in lonely species, which is a small rodent reaction. It suggests that it can be caused by the social structure of the colony of the naked mole rat (the naked mole rat is a social species such as bees and ants). “

Hypoxia tolerance: The naked mole rat may provide the secret of hypoxia survival

Dr. Pamentor on a trap trip in South Africa. Credit: Matthew Pamenter

How can these discoveries be applied to humans?

“Lower metabolism (or reduced energy use) is important for tolerating hypoxia, and the naked mole rat provides clues as to how nature has solved the problem of hypoxia tolerance.

“Hypoxia is an important component of many human-related conditions, including stroke, chronic lung disease, etc. Regulation of brown fat activity is also associated with human weight loss strategies.”

How was the survey conducted?

“We used thermal cameras to non-invasively detect thermal changes in awake free movement. Naked mole rat During exposure to normal and hypoxia, a molecular approach was then used to measure changes in major mitochondrial proteins before and after hypoxia in brown adipose tissue.

“We also traveled to South Africa with the support of the National Geographic Explorer grant to capture and collect organizations from other organizations. Mole rat The species used in this study. We worked with Nigel Bennett, a researcher at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, to capture the animals. “

Is there any other important information I would like to share about the naked mole rat?

“Yes. The naked mole rat is often referred to as a cold-blooded or poikilotherm, and body temperature changes with the temperature of the environment, but our data show that not only is it actively generating heat, but it can be very regulated. Shows. Very fast Hypoxia.. Therefore, they are heterogeneous. That is, it regulates body temperature, but the internal temperature can change as needed. ”


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For more information:
Hang Cheng et al, Naked mole rat The heat generation of brown fat is reduced during hypoxia due to the rapid decrease in UCP1. Nature Communications (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-021-27170-2

Quote: Hypoxia tolerance: The naked mole rat was obtained on November 24, 2021 from https: //medicalxpress.com/news/2021-11-hypoxia-tolerance-naked-mole-rats- May 24) secret.html

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The naked mole rat may provide the secret of hypoxic survival

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