Naked Mole-Rat Project (SAW 2012)

Within the framework of the “Joint Initiative Research and Innovation” (PAKT), FLI-researchers wanted to identify molecular networks responsible for a long life in health by means of the naked mole-rats (Heterocephalus glaber) and granted by the Leibniz Association (funding line 2). The innovative research approach is a collaboration with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin to analyze molecular networks, which are responsible for an unusually long and healthy life in naked mole-rats.

The Naked Mole-Rat

Mouse-sized naked mole-rats, who live in the East African savanna, are very exciting for age research: they can live as long as 30 years, and they do not suffer from age-related diseases – in contrast to humans and to other rodents. So far, there was no case of cancer recorded for this species. The rodents are perfectly adapted to a life below ground (zoological family: blesmols, Bathyergidae), they build extensive tunnel systems, which they almost never leave. Under these conditions, they have developed a unique division of labor: like state-building insects (honeybees, ants, termites), only one female mole-rat reproduces; brood care, food-procurement as well as the enlargement and defense of their burrow system are practiced collaboratively.

Astonishingly, the breeding “queen” lives much longer than her conspecifics. It is in total contradiction to the common theory of aging in which organisms invest their energy either in reproduction or in conservation of its body functions. The scientists have several samples from a mole-rat-breeding program as well as samples from free-living mole-rats from international cooperation partners, to explain how mole-rat queens combine extreme physical exertion of consecutive pregnancies with remarkable health and longevity.


With the help of modern sequencing technologies, the researchers measured how intense the different genes are transcribed. This leads us to the identification of molecular networks underlying the exceptionally long life- and health span of naked mole-rats

Collaboration Partners



Holtze S, Braude S, Lemma A, Koch R, Morhart M, Szafranski K, Platzer M, Alemayehu F, Goeritz F, Hildebrandt TB. (2017) The microenvironment of naked mole-rat burrows in East Africa. Afr J Ecol (Epub ahead of print). [DOI]

Sahm A, Bens M, Platzer M, Szafranski K. (2017) PosiGene: automated and easy-to-use pipeline for genome-wide detection of positively selected gene. Nucleic Acids Res (Epub ahead of print). [PubMed]


Bens M, Sahm A, Groth M, Jahn N, Morhart M, Holtze S, Hildebrandt TB, Platzer M, Szafranski K. (2016) FRAMA: from RNA-seq data to annotated mRNA assemblies. BMC Genomics 17: 54. [PubMed]

Debebe T, Holtze S, Morhart M, Hildebrandt TB, Rodewald S, Huse K, Platzer M, Wyohannes D, Yirga S, Lemma A, Thieme R, Konig B, Birkenmeier G. (2016) Analysis of cultivable microbiota and diet intake pattern of the long-lived naked mole-rat. Gutt Pathog 8: 25 [PubMed]

Dziegelewska M, Holtze S, Vole C, Wachter U, Menzel U, Morhart M, Groth M, Szafranski K, Sahm A, Sponholz C, Dammann P, Huse K, Hildebrandt T, Platzer M. (2016) Low sulfide levels and a high degree of cystathionine beta-synthase (CBS) activation by S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) in the long-lived naked mole-rat. Redox Biol 8: 192-198. [PubMed]


Thieme R, Kurz S, Kolb M, Debebe T, Holtze S, Morhart M, Huse K, Szafranski K, Platzer M, Hildebrandt TB, Birkenmeier G. (2015) Analysis of Alpha-2 Macroglobulin from the Long-Lived and Cancer-Resistant Naked Mole-Rat and Human Plasma. PLoS One 10(6), e0130470. [PubMed]


Henning Y, Vole C, Begall S, Bens M, Broecker-Preuss M, Sahm A, Szafranski K, Burda H, Dammann P. (2014) Unusual ratio between free thyroxine and free triiodothyronine in a long-lived mole-rat species with bimodal ageing. PLoS One 19;9(11), e113698. [PubMed]


Roellig K, Drews B, Goeritz F, Hildebrandt TB. (2011) The long gestation of the small naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber RÜPPELL, 1842) studied with ultrasound biomicroscopy and 3D-ultrasonography. PLoS One 6, e17744. [PubMed]

Yu C, Li Y, Holmes A, Szafranski K, Faulkes CG, Coen CW, Buffenstein R, Platzer M, de Magalhães JP, Church GM. (2011) RNA sequencing reveals differential expression of mitochondrial and oxidation reduction genes in the long-lived naked mole-rat when compared to mice. PLoS One 6, e26729. [PubMed]


PD Dr. Matthias Platzer

Matthias Platzer
Coordinator Naked Mole-Rat Project
+49 3641 65-6241

Project Period:
01.01.2012 - 31.12.2014