The naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) is a strictly subterranean, extraordinarily long-lived eusocial mammal. Although it is the size of a mouse, its maximum lifespan exceeds 30 years, making this animal the longest-living rodent. Naked mole rats show negligible senescence, no age-related increase in mortality, and high fecundity until death. In addition to delayed ageing, they are resistant to both spontaneous cancer and experimentally induced tumorigenesis.
Naked mole rats pose a challenge to the theories that link ageing, cancer and redox homeostasis. Although characterized by significant oxidative stress, the naked mole rat proteome does not show age-related susceptibility to oxidative damage or increased ubiquitination. Naked mole rats naturally reside in large colonies with a single breeding female, the ‘queen’, who suppresses the sexual maturity of her subordinates. They also live in full darkness, at low oxygen and high carbon dioxide concentrations, and are unable to sustain thermogenesis nor feel certain types of pain. Full genome sequencing and analysis of the naked mole rat genome reveals unique genome features and molecular adaptations consistent with cancer resistance, poikilothermy, hairlessness and insensitivity to low oxygen, and altered visual function, circadian rythms and taste sensing.