Maternal environment and genotype interact to establish diabesity in mice

Genome Res. 2000 Oct;10(10):1568-78. doi: 10.1101/gr.147000.


Obesity, a major risk factor for type II diabetes, is becoming more prevalent in Western populations consuming high calorie diets while expending less energy both at the workplace and at home. Most human obesity, and probably most type II diabetes as well, reflects polygenic rather than monogenic inheritance. We have genetically dissected a polygenic mouse model of obesity-driven type II diabetes by outcrossing the obese, diabetes-prone, NZO (New Zealand Obese)/HlLt strain to the relatively lean NON (Nonobese Nondiabetic)/Lt strain, and then reciprocally backcrossing obese F1 mice to the lean NON/Lt parental strain. A continuous distribution of body weights was observed in a population of 203 first backcross males. The 22% of first backcross males developing overt diabetes showed highest peripubertal weight gains and earliest development of hyperinsulinemia. We report a complex diabetes-predisposing ("diabesity") QTL (Quantitative Trait Loci) on chromosome 1 contributing significant main effects to increases in body weight, plasma insulin, and plasma glucose. NZO contributed QTL with significant main effects on adiposity parameters on chromosomes 12 and 5. A NON QTL on chromosome 14 interacted epistatically with the NZO obesity QTL on chromosome 12 to increase adiposity. Although the main effect of the diabetogenic QTL on chromosome 1 was on rapid growth rather than adiposity, it interacted epistatically with the obesity QTL on chromosome 12 to increase plasma glucose levels. Additional complex epistatic interactions eliciting significant increases in body weight and/or plasma glucose were found between the NZO-contributed QTL on chromosome 1 and other NZO-contributed QTL on chromosomes 15 and 17, as well as with an NON-contributed QTL on chromosome 2. We further show that certain of these intergenic interactions are predicated on, or enhanced by, the maternal postparturitional environment. We show by cross-fostering experiments that the maternal environmental influence in part is because of the presence of early obesity-inducing factors in the milk of obese F1 dams. We also discuss a strategy for using recombinant congenic strains to separate and reassemble interacting QTL for future study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosome Segregation / genetics
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Genes, Dominant / genetics
  • Genetic Markers / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Lactation / genetics
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, Obese
  • Penetrance
  • Pregnancy
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable


  • Genetic Markers