Ectopic cervical thymi and no thymic involution until midlife in naked mole rats

Stephan Emmrich, Frances Tolibzoda Zakusilo, Alexandre Trapp, Xuming Zhou, Quanwei Zhang, Ellen M. Irving, Michael G. Drage, Zhengdong Zhang, Vadim N. Gladyshev, Andrei Seluanov, Vera Gorbunova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Immunosenescence is a hallmark of aging and manifests as increased susceptibility to infection, autoimmunity, and cancer in the elderly. One component of immunosenescence is thymic involution, age-associated shrinkage of the thymus, observed in all vertebrates studied to date. The naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) has become an attractive animal model in aging research due to its extreme longevity and resistance to disease. Here, we show that naked mole rats display no thymic involution up to 11 years of age. Furthermore, we found large ectopic cervical thymi in addition to the canonical thoracic thymus, both being identical in their cell composition. The developmental landscape in naked mole rat thymi revealed overt differences from the murine T-cell compartment, most notably a decrease of CD4+/CD8+ double-positive cells and lower abundance of cytotoxic effector T cells. Our observations suggest that naked mole rats display a delayed immunosenescence. Therapeutic interventions aimed at reversing thymic aging remain limited, underscoring the importance of understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms behind a sustained immune function in the naked mole rat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13477
JournalAging cell
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • CD4-CD8 Ratio
  • T-lymphocytes
  • aging
  • immunosenescence
  • lymphopoiesis
  • naked mole rat
  • thymus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Cell Biology


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