Genome-wide adaptive complexes to underground stresses in blind mole rats Spalax

Xiaodong Fang, Eviatar Nevo, Lijuan Han, Erez Y. Levanon, Jing Zhao, Aaron Avivi, Denis Larkin, Xuanting Jiang, Sergey Feranchuk, Yabing Zhu, Alla Fishman, Yue Feng, Noa Sher, Zhiqiang Xiong, Thomas Hankeln, Zhiyong Huang, Vera Gorbunova, Lu Zhang, Wei Zhao, Derek E. WildmanYingqi Xiong, Andrei Gudkov, Qiumei Zheng, Gideon Rechavi, Sanyang Liu, Lily Bazak, Jie Chen, Binyamin A. Knisbacher, Yao Lu, Imad Shams, Krzysztof Gajda, Marta Farré, Jaebum Kim, Harris A. Lewin, Jian Ma, Mark Band, Anne Bicker, Angela Kranz, Tobias Mattheus, Hanno Schmidt, Andrei Seluanov, Jorge Azpurua, Michael R. McGowen, Eshel Ben Jacob, Kexin Li, Shaoliang Peng, Xiaoqian Zhu, Xiangke Liao, Shuaicheng Li, Anders Krogh, Xin Zhou, Leonid Brodsky, Jun Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The blind mole rat (BMR), Spalax galili, is an excellent model for studying mammalian adaptation to life underground and medical applications. The BMR spends its entire life underground, protecting itself from predators and climatic fluctuations while challenging it with multiple stressors such as darkness, hypoxia, hypercapnia, energetics and high pathonecity. Here we sequence and analyse the BMR genome and transcriptome, highlighting the possible genomic adaptive responses to the underground stressors. Our results show high rates of RNA/DNA editing, reduced chromosome rearrangements, an over-representation of short interspersed elements (SINEs) probably linked to hypoxia tolerance, degeneration of vision and progression of photoperiodic perception, tolerance to hypercapnia and hypoxia and resistance to cancer. The remarkable traits of the BMR, together with its genomic and transcriptomic information, enhance our understanding of adaptation to extreme environments and will enable the utilization of BMR models for biomedical research in the fight against cancer, stroke and cardiovascular diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3966
JournalNature Communications
StatePublished - 3 Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was primarily financed by the Laszlo N. Tauber Family Foundation and secondarily by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31171190). E.N. thanks the Ancell Teicher Research Foundation for Genetics and Molecular Evolution for financial support. L. Brodsky and S.F. were partly sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grant HR0011-11-C-0094. D.L., K.G., M.F., J.K., H.A.L. and J.M. were supported in part by BBSRC grant BB/J010170/1 and PL-Grid Infrastructure. T.H. and H.S. acknowledge the support by the University of Mainz Center for Computational Sciences (SRFN) and the Stiftung Innovation Rhineland-Palatinate. A.A. acknowledges partial support by the Israel Cancer Association (ICA). A.A. and M.B. acknowledge partial support by the US-Israel Binational Foundation (BSF). We thank the TianHe research and development team of the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) for testing, optimizing and deploying the software on TianHe-2 supercomputers.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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