Analysis of Alpha-2 Macroglobulin from the Long-Lived and Cancer-Resistant Naked Mole-Rat and Human Plasma

PLoS One. 2015 Jun 23;10(6):e0130470. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0130470. eCollection 2015.


Background: The naked mole-rat (NMR) is a long-lived and cancer resistant species. Identification of potential anti-cancer and age related mechanisms is of great interest and makes this species eminent to investigate anti-cancer strategies and understand aging mechanisms. Since it is known that the NMR expresses higher liver mRNA-levels of alpha 2-macroglobulin than mice, nothing is known about its structure, functionality or expression level in the NMR compared to the human A2M.

Results: Here we show a comprehensive analysis of NMR- and human plasma-A2M, showing a different prediction in glycosylation of NMR-A2M, which results in a higher molecular weight compared to human A2M. Additionally, we found a higher concentration of A2M (8.3±0.44 mg/mL vs. and 4.4±0.20 mg/mL) and a lower total plasma protein content (38.7±1.79 mg/mL vs. 61.7±3.20 mg/mL) in NMR compared to human. NMR-A2M can be transformed by methylamine and trypsin resulting in a conformational change similar to human A2M. NMR-A2M is detectable by a polyclonal antibody against human A2M. Determination of tryptic and anti-tryptic activity of NMR and human plasma revealed a higher anti-tryptic activity of the NMR plasma. On the other hand, less proteolytic activity was found in NMR plasma compared to human plasma.

Conclusion: We found transformed NMR-A2M binding to its specific receptor LRP1. We could demonstrate lower protein expression of LRP1 in the NMR liver tissue compared to human but higher expression of A2M. This was accompanied by a higher EpCAM protein expression as central adhesion molecule in cancer progression. NMR-plasma was capable to increase the adhesion in human fibroblast in vitro most probably by increasing CD29 protein expression. This is the first report, demonstrating similarities as well as distinct differences between A2M in NMR and human plasma. This might be directly linked to the intriguing phenotype of the NMR and suggests that A2M might probably play an important role in anti-cancer and the anti-aging mechanisms in the NMR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mole Rats
  • Neoplasms / blood*
  • Phylogeny
  • alpha-Macroglobulins / metabolism*


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • alpha-Macroglobulins

Grants and funding

This work was supported by grants from the Europäischer Sozialfond - ESF (100098250) to GB. This work was supported by grants from the Leibniz Association (SAW 2012) to MP.