Hypoxia tolerance, longevity and cancer-resistance in the mole rat Spalax - A liver transcriptomics approach

Hanno Schmidt, Assaf Malik, Anne Bicker, Gesa Poetzsch, Aaron Avivi, Imad Shams, Thomas Hankeln

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The blind subterranean mole rat Spalax shows a remarkable tolerance to hypoxia, cancer-resistance and longevity. Unravelling the genomic basis of these adaptations will be important for biomedical applications. RNA-Seq gene expression data were obtained from normoxic and hypoxic Spalax and rat liver tissue. Hypoxic Spalax broadly downregulates genes from major liver function pathways. This energy-saving response is likely a crucial adaptation to low oxygen levels. In contrast, the hypoxia-sensitive rat shows massive upregulation of energy metabolism genes. Candidate genes with plausible connections to the mole rat's phenotype, such as important key genes related to hypoxia-tolerance, DNA damage repair, tumourigenesis and ageing, are substantially higher expressed in Spalax than in rat. Comparative liver transcriptomics highlights the importance of molecular adaptations at the gene regulatory level in Spalax and pinpoints a variety of starting points for subsequent functional studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14348
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
H.S. and T.H. acknowledge financial support by the University of Mainz Center for Computational Sciences (SRFN) and the Stiftung Innovation Rhineland-Palatinate (1049). A.A., I.S. and A.M. acknowledge financial support from the John Templeton Foundation, USA (grant #53057) and the donation of Mr. Peter Kadas, UK. We thank Bettina Weich for performing RNA preparation, Dr. Steffen Rapp for operating the Illumina HiSeq machine and Dr. Dennis Strand (University Medical School Mainz) for critical reading of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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