Is human Type 2 diabetes maternally inherited? Insights from an animal model

Diabet Med. 2004 Jul;21(7):759-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2004.01225.x.


Aims: Patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus more often report a history of an affected mother than father. However, in the few studies where both parents and offspring have been directly tested, this apparent maternal excess has not been confirmed. Rodent models of diabetes have the advantage that all parents and offspring can undergo glucose tolerance testing at a specific age in adult life. The aim of this study was to gain insights into the inheritance of human Type 2 diabetes by using a rat model.

Methods: Goto Kakizaki (GK) rats (a model of Type 2 diabetes) were mated with non-diabetic Wistar rats. Offspring were produced from 20 GK female vs. Wistar male and 20 Wistar female vs. GK male crosses. Fasting blood glucose was measured at 6 weeks and 3 months of age and an intravenous glucose tolerance test (0.8 g/kg) performed at 6 months of age.

Results: Wistar mothers produced litters with almost twice as many viable offspring as GK mothers (14.1 vs. 7.4, P < 0.001). Despite the larger litter size, offspring in the two groups were of comparable weight at 6 weeks and 6 months of age. At 3 months of age, male offspring of Wistar mothers were heavier than offspring of GK mothers (415.7 g vs. 379.5 g, P = 0.016) but this difference was not sustained at 6 months of age. Fasting blood glucose at all ages and average blood glucose during the glucose tolerance test were similar in both groups.

Conclusions: We therefore conclude that there is no evidence for maternal transmission of diabetes in the GK rat. Mothers were able to adjust their supply of milk so that offspring attained similar weights independent of litter size. The weight of the offspring remained independent of litter size into adult life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Body Weight
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Litter Size
  • Male
  • Mothers*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sex Factors


  • Blood Glucose