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Neurosci Lett. 2012 Jan 11;506(2):342-5. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2011.11.042. Epub 2011 Dec 3.

Adult naked mole-rat brain retains the NMDA receptor subunit GluN2D associated with hypoxia tolerance in neonatal mammals.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, 840 West Taylor St., Chicago, IL 60607, USA.


Adult naked mole-rats show a number of systemic adaptations to a crowded underground habitat that is low in oxygen and high in carbon dioxide. Remarkably, brain slice tissue from adult naked mole-rats also is extremely tolerant to oxygen deprivation as indicated by maintenance of synaptic transmission under hypoxic conditions as well as by a delayed neuronal depolarization during anoxia. These characteristics resemble hypoxia tolerance in brain slices from neonates in a variety of mammal species. An important component of neonatal tolerance to hypoxia involves the subunit composition of NMDA receptors. Neonates have a high proportion of NMDA receptors with GluN2D subunits which are protective because they retard calcium entry into neurons during hypoxic episodes. Therefore, we hypothesized that adult naked mole-rats retain a protective, neonatal-like, NMDA receptor subunit profile. We used immunoblotting to assess age-related changes in NMDA receptor subunits in naked mole-rats and mice. The results show that adult naked mole-rat brain retains a much greater proportion of the hypoxia-protective GluN2D subunit compared to adult mice. However, age-related changes in other subunits (GluN2A and GluN2B) from the neonatal period to adulthood were comparable in mice and naked mole-rats. Hence, adult naked mole-rat brain only retains the neonatal NMDA receptor subunit that is associated with hypoxia tolerance.

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