Hyper-Variability in Circulating Insulin, High Fat Feeding Outcomes, and Effects of Reducing Ins2 Dosage in Male Ins1-Null Mice in a Specific Pathogen-Free Facility

PLoS One. 2016 Apr 7;11(4):e0153280. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0153280. eCollection 2016.


Insulin is an essential hormone with key roles in energy homeostasis and body composition. Mice and rats, unlike other mammals, have two insulin genes: the rodent-specific Ins1 gene and the ancestral Ins2 gene. The relationships between insulin gene dosage and obesity has previously been explored in male and female Ins2-/- mice with full or reduced Ins1 dosage, as well as in female Ins1-/- mice with full or partial Ins2 dosage. We report herein unexpected hyper-variability in Ins1-null male mice, with respect to their circulating insulin levels and to the physiological effects of modulating Ins2 gene dosage. Two large cohorts of Ins1-/-:Ins2+/- mice and their Ins1-/-:Ins2+/+ littermates were fed chow diet or high fat diet (HFD) from weaning, and housed in specific pathogen-free conditions. Cohort A and cohort B were studied one year apart. Contrary to female mice from the same litters, inactivating one Ins2 allele on the complete Ins1-null background did not consistently cause a reduction of circulating insulin in male mice, on either diet. In cohort A, all HFD-fed males showed an equivalent degree of insulin hypersecretion and weight gain, regardless of Ins2 dosage. In cohort B the effects of HFD appeared generally diminished, and cohort B Ins1-/-:Ins2+/- males showed decreased insulin levels and body mass compared to Ins1-/-:Ins2+/+ littermates, on both diets. Although experimental conditions were consistent between cohorts, we found that HFD-fed Ins1-/-:Ins2+/- mice with lower insulin levels had increased corticosterone. Collectively, these observations highlight the phenotypic characteristics that change in association with differences in circulating insulin and Ins2 gene dosage, particularly in male mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / analysis*
  • Body Composition
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Hyperinsulinism / etiology
  • Hyperinsulinism / metabolism
  • Hyperinsulinism / pathology
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin / physiology
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Islets of Langerhans / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Rats
  • Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms


  • Blood Glucose
  • Ins1 protein, mouse
  • Ins2 protein, mouse
  • Insulin