Naked mole-rat cortical neurons are resistant to acid-induced cell death.


Regulation of brain pH is a critical homeostatic process and changes in brain pH modulate various ion channels and receptors and thus neuronal excitability. Tissue acidosis, resulting from hypoxia or hypercapnia, can activate various proteins and ion channels, among which acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs) a family of primarily Na+ permeable ion channels, which alongside classical excitotoxicity causes neuronal death. Naked mole-rats (NMRs, Heterocephalus glaber) are long-lived, fossorial, eusocial rodents that display remarkable behavioral/cellular hypoxia and hypercapnia resistance. In the central nervous system, ASIC subunit expression is similar between mouse and NMR with the exception of much lower expression of ASIC4 throughout the NMR brain. However, ASIC function and neuronal sensitivity to sustained acidosis has not been examined in the NMR brain. Here, we show with whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology of cultured NMR and mouse cortical and hippocampal neurons that NMR neurons have smaller voltage-gated Na+ channel currents and more hyperpolarized resting membrane potentials. We further demonstrate that acid-mediated currents in NMR neurons are of smaller magnitude than in mouse, and that all currents in both species are reversibly blocked by the ASIC antagonist benzamil. We further demonstrate that NMR neurons show greater resistance to acid-induced cell death than mouse neurons. In summary, NMR neurons show significant cellular resistance to acidotoxicity compared to mouse neurons, contributing factors likely to be smaller ASIC-mediated currents and reduced NaV activity.