Evidence for a Compensated Thermogenic Defect in Transgenic Mice Lacking the Mitochondrial glycerol-3-phosphate Dehydrogenase Gene

Endocrinology. 2003 Dec;144(12):5469-79. doi: 10.1210/en.2003-0687. Epub 2003 Aug 28.


A role for mitochondrial glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (mGPD) in thermogenesis was investigated in transgenic mice lacking the mGPD gene (mGPD-/-). Reared and studied at 22 C, these mice have a small, but significant, reduction (7-10%) in energy expenditure, as evidenced by oxygen consumption (QO2) and food intake, and show signs of increased brown adipose tissue (BAT) stimulation, higher plasma T4 and T3 concentrations, as well as increased uncoupling protein 3 (UCP3) expression in muscle. When acclimated at thermoneutrality temperature (32 C), QO2 decreased in both genotypes, but the difference between them widened to 16%, whereas BAT underwent atrophy, and plasma T4 and T3 levels and UCP3 mRNA decreased, yet T3 and UCP3 persisted at significantly higher levels in mGPD-/- mice. Such differences disappeared when the mice were rendered hypothyroid. A compensatory role for the observed changes in BAT, thyroid hormone levels, and UCP3 was investigated with a 2-h cold challenge of 12 C in euthyroid and hypothyroid mice. No hypothermia ensued if the mice had been acclimated at 22 C, but when acclimated at 32 C, euthyroid mGPD-/- mice became significantly more hypothermic than the wild-type controls. When rendered hypothyroid, this difference was accentuated, and the mGPD-/- mice developed profound hypothermia ( approximately 28 vs. 34 C in wild-type mice; P < 0.001). Thus, mGPD-deficient mice have, despite increased plasma T4 and T3, a small, but distinct, reduction in obligatory thermogenesis, which is compensated by increased BAT facultative thermogenesis and by thyroid hormone-dependent mechanisms using other proteins, possibly UCP3. The results support a role for mGPD in thyroid hormone thermogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / physiology
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Cold Temperature
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Female
  • Glycerolphosphate Dehydrogenase / genetics*
  • Ion Channels
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mitochondria / enzymology*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics
  • Thyroid Gland / physiology
  • Thyroxine / blood
  • Triiodothyronine / blood
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Uncoupling Protein 2
  • Uncoupling Protein 3


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Ion Channels
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Ucp3 protein, mouse
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Uncoupling Protein 2
  • Uncoupling Protein 3
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Glycerolphosphate Dehydrogenase
  • Thyroxine