October 1, 2013
Perfect Proteins May Be Secret To Naked Mole Rat’s Longevity
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Researchers from the University of Rochester believe they have discovered the secret behind the longevity of the world’s longest-lived rodent: the creatures produce better protein than other members of their order.
Naked mole rats, which typically live approximately 30 years and tend to remain healthy until their final days, possess a unique mechanism for building proteins, according to a recently-published study from research biologists Vera Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanov.
The small, hairless African rodents possess unique ribosome RNA (rRNA) scaffolding, with the strands splitting at two specific locations and the intervening segment being discarded, the scientists wrote in a paper published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Proteins are involved in nearly all cellular functions and are essential to all living organisms. However, before they can accomplish the tasks required of them, they must fold into appropriate shapes so that they can connect to and interact with other structures within the cell.
The naked mole rat, according to Gorbunova and Seluanov, produces proteins which are close to perfect in form. While studying the rodent’s rRNA, they applied dye to a sample and found three dark bands representing three different concentrations of different rRNA molecules – not two like in most creatures.
Their discovery suggests a “hidden break” in the naked mole rat’s rRNA, and since this substance is a vital component of the protein-creation process, Gorbunova and Seluanov set out to determine whether or not its unique shape affected the quality of proteins produced by the rodents.
“Instead of floating off on their own, the two remaining pieces from each strand stay close to each other and act as a scaffold on which ribosomal proteins are assembled to create a functional ribosome – a molecular machine that puts amino acids together to create proteins. And the results are impressive,” the university explained.
“When the ribosome connects amino acids together to create a protein a mistake is occasionally introduced when an incorrect amino acid is inserted,” they added. “Gorbunova and Seluanov found that the proteins made by naked mole rat cells are up to 40 times less likely to contain such mistakes than the proteins made by mouse cells.”
While Seluanov described their work as “basic research,” he added that the quality of the naked mole rat’s protein was important because it allowed the body to function more efficiently. He and his colleague will now attempt to split mouse rRNA in a similar fashion in order to discover whether or not it results in improved protein creation. They hope that one day they will be able to develop medical treatments to help modulate protein synthesis in humans.