Protracted brain development in a rodent model of extreme longevity

Sci Rep. 2015 Jun 29;5:11592. doi: 10.1038/srep11592.


Extreme longevity requires the continuous and large-scale adaptation of organ systems to delay senescence. Naked mole rats are the longest-living rodents, whose nervous system likely undergoes life-long adaptive reorganization. Nevertheless, neither the cellular organization of their cerebral cortex nor indices of structural neuronal plasticity along extreme time-scales have been established. We find that adult neurogenesis and neuronal migration are not unusual in naked mole rat brains. Instead, we show the prolonged expression of structural plasticity markers, many recognized as being developmentally controlled, and multi-year-long postnatal neuromorphogenesis and spatial synapse refinement in hippocampal and olfactory structures of the naked mole rat brain. Neurophysiological studies on identified hippocampal neurons demonstrated that morphological differentiation is disconnected from the control of excitability in all neuronal contingents regardless of their ability to self-renew. Overall, we conclude that naked mole rats show an extremely protracted period of brain maturation that may permit plasticity and resilience to neurodegenerative processes over their decades-long life span. This conclusion is consistent with the hypothesis that naked mole rats are neotenous, with retention of juvenile characteristics to permit survival in a hypoxic environment, with extreme longevity a consequence of greatly retarded development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Apoptosis
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Dentate Gyrus / physiology
  • Longevity / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Biological*
  • Mole Rats
  • Morphogenesis
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Piriform Cortex / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology