Imad Shams

Imad Shams



Phone: ​+972-4-8249972

Office location: Multi-Purpose Building, room 224



Research Interests:

A tremendous biodiversity evolved on Earth allows species to face the challenges in their diverse habitats. The subterranean blind mole-rat of the genus Nannospalax (hereafter, Spalax) is a remarkably long-lived, solitary, wild, obligatory fossorial rodent of the Eastern Mediterranean region. Spalax inhabits sealed underground burrows, relatively protected from extreme climatic changes, pathogens, and predators; however, it faces extreme hypoxic and hypercapnic conditions that can reach ~7% O2, and ~6%CO2 in the natural habitat, which appears to be lethal to many mammalian species. Hypoxia stimulates reactive oxygen species excessive generation that compromises genome integrity, proteostasis, and homeostasis in general. Spalax is an extremely long-living mammal relatively to its body mass (~20 years in captivity; 120-200 g); moreover, it tolerates chemical carcinogens. I am interested in studying the physiological, cellular, metabolic and genetic strategies; and the evolutionary changes and the fine-tuning of the molecular mechanisms that underlies longevity, resistance to environmental stress and cancer.


Specific research interests:

  1. Oxidative and genotoxic stress response, DNA repair capacity, and metabolic adaptations in Spalax cells and tissues challenged by hypoxic stress.
  2. Longevity-related epigenetic changes, transposable elements activity, and gene transcription regulation.
  3. Evolutionary molecular changes that determine cell-to-cell transmission of senescence, inflammatory signaling, migration and differentiation patterns in Spalax as requisites for stress and cancer resistance.


Selected publications:

  1. Domankevich, V., Eddini, H., Odeh, A., and Shams, I. (2018) Resistance to DNA damage and enhanced DNA repair capacity in the hypoxia-tolerant blind mole rat Spalax carmeli. The Journal of experimental biology 221
  2. Schmidt, H., Hangmann, J., Shams, I., Avivi, A., and Hankeln, T. (2016) Molecular evolution of antioxidant and hypoxia response in long-lived, cancer-resistant blind mole rats: The Nrf2-Keap1 pathway. Gene 577, 293-298
  3. Malik, A., Domankevich, V., Lijuan, H., Xiaodong, F., Korol, A., Avivi, A., and Shams, I. (2016) Genome maintenance and bioenergetics of the long-lived hypoxia-tolerant and cancer-resistant blind mole rat, Spalax: a cross-species analysis of brain transcriptome. Scientific reports 6, 38624
  4. Domankevich, V., Opatowsky, Y., Malik, A., Korol, A. B., Frenkel, Z., Manov, I., Avivi, A., and Shams, I. (2016) Adaptive patterns in the p53 protein sequence of the hypoxia- and cancer-tolerant blind mole rat Spalax. BMC evolutionary biology 16, 177
  5. Iancu, T. C., Arad, T., Shams, I., and Manov, I. (2014) Iron-rich ferritin in the hypoxia-tolerant rodent Spalax ehrenbergi: a naturally-occurring biomarker confirms the internalization and pathways of intracellular macromolecules. Journal of structural biology 187, 254-265
  6. Fang, X., …, Lu, Y., Shams, I., Gajda, K., et al., and Wang, J. (2014) Genome-wide adaptive complexes to underground stresses in blind mole rats Spalax. Nature communications 5, 3966
  7. Manov, I., Hirsh, M., Iancu, T. C., Malik, A., Sotnichenko, N., Band, M., Avivi, A., and Shams, I. (2013) Pronounced cancer resistance in a subterranean rodent, the blind mole-rat, Spalax: in vivo and in vitro evidence. BMC biology 11, 91
  8. Ravid, O., Shams, I., Ben Califa, N., Nevo, E., Avivi, A., and Neumann, D. (2007) An extracellular region of the erythropoietin receptor of the subterranean blind mole rat Spalax enhances receptor maturation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104, 14360-14365
  9. Shams, I., Avivi, A., and Nevo, E. (2005) Oxygen and carbon dioxide fluctuations in burrows of subterranean blind mole rats indicate tolerance to hypoxic-hypercapnic stresses. Comparative biochemistry and physiology. Part A, Molecular & integrative physiology 142, 376-382
  10. Shams, I., Avivi, A., and Nevo, E. (2004) Hypoxic stress tolerance of the blind subterranean mole rat: expression of erythropoietin and hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101, 9698-9703