Auditory brainstem development of naked mole-rats (Heterocephalus glaber)

Elizabeth A. McCullagh, John Peacock, Alexandra Lucas, Shani Poleg, Nathaniel T. Greene, Addison Gaut, Samantha Lagestee, Yalan Zhang, Leonard K. Kaczmarek, Thomas J. Park, Daniel J. Tollin, Achim Klug

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Life underground often leads to animals having specialized auditory systems to accommodate the constraints of acoustic transmission in tunnels. Despite living underground, naked mole-rats use a highly vocal communication system, implying that they rely on central auditory processing. However, little is known about these animals' central auditory system, and whether it follows a similar developmental time course as other rodents. Naked mole-rats show slowed development in the hippocampus suggesting they have altered brain development compared to other rodents. Here, we measured morphological characteristics and voltage-gated potassium channel K v 3.3 expression and protein levels at different key developmental time points (postnatal days 9, 14, 21 and adulthood) to determine whether the auditory brainstem (lateral superior olive and medial nucleus of the trapezoid body) develops similarly to two common auditory rodent model species: gerbils and mice. Additionally, we measured the hearing onset of naked mole-rats using auditory brainstem response recordings at the same developmental timepoints. In contrast with other work in naked mole-rats showing that they are highly divergent in many aspects of their physiology, we show that naked mole-rats have a similar hearing onset, between postnatal day (P) 9 and P14, to many other rodents. On the other hand, we show some developmental differences, such as a unique morphology and K v 3.3 protein levels in the brainstem.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20220878
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1980
StatePublished - 10 Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Auditory
  • Auditory brainstem response
  • Hearing onset
  • Naked mole-rat


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