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MDC researchers: Ion channel makes African naked mole-rat insensitive to acid-induced pain
Date:12/20/2011

inflammatory joint diseases such as rheumatism contains high concentrations of acid. These high acid levels in the tissue activate the pain sensors.

Naked mole-rats also have pain sensors. In a previous study, the research group of Professor Lewin already showed that naked mole-rats are just as sensitive to heat and pressure as mice are. In contrast, they do not feel any pain when they are exposed to acid. Moreover, as Dr. St. John Smith and Professor Lewin report in the American journal Science, naked mole-rats also have the Nav1.7 ion channel like other mammals, including mice and humans. The researchers therefore investigated the function of this ion channel in naked mole-rat and in mouse sensory nerves to determine whether there is a difference between the two species in the function of this ion channel.

In the present study the researchers showed that the NaV1.7 ion channel of the naked mole-rat does in fact differ in structure from that of the mouse or of humans. Ion channels are proteins composed of amino acids, the blueprint of which is coded by the genes. In the NaV1.7 ion channel of the naked mole-rat, three amino acid building blocks are different from those in all other mammals. These three altered protein subunits lead to profound impairment or blockage of the naked mole-rat ion channel by acid. This phenomenon can also be observed in the Nav1.7 ion channel of mice and humans, but it is so weak that the transmission of pain signals is hardly disturbed.

In the naked mole-rat, however, this mutated ion channel is sufficient to inhibit signal transduction. The reason for the mutation in the ion channel, according to the researchers, is that naked mole-rats have adapted over the course of evolution to the high CO2 levels in the air and thus have become insensitive to pain induced by acid. This is also the case when in the nerve cells of the naked mole-rats other ion channels are activated by acid stimuli that would normal
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Contact: bachtler@mdc-berlin.de
bachtler@mdc-berlin.de
49-309-406-3896
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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