Differential protein phosphorylation is responsible for hypoxia-induced regulation of the Akt/mTOR pathway in naked mole rats

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2020 Apr:242:110653. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2020.110653. Epub 2020 Jan 8.


Naked mole rats (NMRs, Heterocephalus glaber) are among the most hypoxia-tolerant mammals known. They can reduce their metabolic rate (>85%) under severe hypoxia, remain moderately active and recover with no obvious signs of damage. Hence, NMRs are an excellent model for studying mammalian hypoxia tolerance. The current study characterized the involvement of posttranslational modifications in regulating the Akt/mTOR pathway that regulates protein synthesis, and the responses of key ribosomal proteins in order to assess tissue-specific responses to 4 h exposure to 7% O2 (compared to controls at 21% O2). Results showed a tissue-specific regulation of the Akt/mTOR pathway via differential phosphorylation. Relative amounts of p-TSC(S939) in brain and of p-TSC(S939), p-Akt(473) and p-PTEN(S380) in liver increased under hypoxia, whereas levels of IGF1R(Y1135/1136) in liver decreased. In skeletal muscle, levels of p-Akt(S473) and p-PTEN(S380) decreased during hypoxia, whereas lungs showed an increase in p-mTOR(S2884) content but a decrease in p-RPS6(S235-236) under the same conditions. Analysis of the phosphorylation states of ribosomal proteins revealed increases in p-4E-BP1(T37/46) content in brain and lungs under hypoxia, as well as a rise in total 4E-BP1 protein level in liver. Phosphorylated eIF-4B(S422) content also increased in liver while levels of p-eIF-2α(S51), and eIF-4E(S209) decreased during hypoxia in liver. Overall, hypoxia altered the Akt/mTOR pathway, which correlated with a general decrease in activity of the ribosomal protein biosynthesis machinery in muscle, lung, and brain of NMRs. However, the increase in eIF-4B in liver suggests the potential promotion of cap-independent mRNA translation mechanism operating under hypoxic stress.

Keywords: Heterocephalus glaber; Metabolic rate depression; Posttranslational modifications; Tolerance protein synthesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Mole Rats
  • Organ Specificity
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*


  • mTOR protein, rat
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases