Membrane phospholipid composition may contribute to exceptional longevity of the naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber): a comparative study using shotgun lipidomics

Exp Gerontol. 2007 Nov;42(11):1053-62. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2007.09.004.


Phospholipids containing highly polyunsaturated fatty acids are particularly prone to peroxidation and membrane composition may therefore influence longevity. Phospholipid molecules, in particular those containing docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), from the skeletal muscle, heart, liver and liver mitochondria were identified and quantified using mass-spectrometry shotgun lipidomics in two similar-sized rodents that show an approximately 9-fold difference in maximum lifespan. The naked mole rat is the longest-living rodent known with a maximum lifespan of >28 years. Total phospholipid distribution is similar in tissues of both species; DHA is only found in phosphatidylcholines (PC), phosphatidylethanolamines (PE) and phosphatidylserines (PS), and DHA is relatively more concentrated in PE than PC. Naked mole-rats have fewer molecular species of both PC and PE than do mice. DHA-containing phospholipids represent 27-57% of all phospholipids in mice but only 2-6% in naked mole-rats. Furthermore, while mice have small amounts of di-polyunsaturated PC and PE, these are lacking in naked mole-rats. Vinyl ether-linked phospholipids (plasmalogens) are higher in naked mole-rat tissues than in mice. The lower level of DHA-containing phospholipids suggests a lower susceptibility to peroxidative damage in membranes of naked mole-rats compared to mice. Whereas the high level of plasmalogens might enhance membrane antioxidant protection in naked mole-rats compared to mice. Both characteristics possibly contribute to the exceptional longevity of naked mole-rats and may indicate a special role for peroxisomes in this extended longevity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / analysis
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / ultrastructure
  • Longevity / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mitochondria, Liver / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / metabolism
  • Mole Rats / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Phosphatidylcholines / chemistry
  • Phosphatidylcholines / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / chemistry
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylserines / chemistry
  • Phosphatidylserines / metabolism
  • Phospholipids / metabolism*
  • Plasmalogens / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Species Specificity
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization


  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines
  • Phosphatidylserines
  • Phospholipids
  • Plasmalogens
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids