In this study, the ultrastructure of mitochondria in cardiomyocytes of naked mole rats (Heterocephalus glaber) aged from 6 months to 11 years was examined. Mitochondria in cardiomyocytes of naked mole rats have a specific ultrastructure that is different from those in cardiomyocytes of other mammalian species studied to date. In contrast to mitochondria of other mammalian cardiomyocytes, where the internal space is completely filled by tightly packed parallel rows of cristae, mitochondria in cardiomyocytes of naked mole rats have a chaotic pattern of cristae organization with wave-like contours. Gradual formation of mitochondrial ultrastructure occurs in naked mole rats for many years. Two mitochondrial populations are developed to the age of 5 years. In addition to the main population, there are some large organelles which exceed normal sizes by two to three times. Most cristae in these mitochondria are assembled into small groups, which form the curved and ring-like structures. The appearance of some specific structural changes (i.e. bundles of parallel cristae) is observed in the mitochondrial population of naked mole rat after 11 years of age. However, these bundles are very rare and of sporadic nature. Morphometric analysis has shown that the superficial density of the inner mitochondrial membrane is similar in all examined age groups of naked mole rats: 21.1 at 6 months; 23.21 at 3 years; 23.55 at 5 years; and 20.8 at 11 years. This level is almost two times lower than in other animals studied (mice and rats). The data demonstrate that pathological changes in mitochondrial apparatus are not present in naked mole rats at least until the age of 11 years. The mitochondrial apparatus corresponds to the phenotype in young animals, thus being another neotenic feature in naked mole rats.
Keywords: aging; cardiomyocytes; electron microscopy; mitochondria; naked mole rat; neoteny; ultrastructure.