Deletion of the Cold Thermoreceptor TRPM8 Increases Heat Loss and Food Intake Leading to Reduced Body Temperature and Obesity in Mice

J Neurosci. 2018 Apr 11;38(15):3643-3656. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3002-17.2018. Epub 2018 Mar 12.


The coupling of energy homeostasis to thermoregulation is essential to maintain homeothermy in changing external environments. We studied the role of the cold thermoreceptor TRPM8 in this interplay in mice of both sexes. We demonstrate that TRPM8 is required for a precise thermoregulation in response to cold, in fed and fasting. Trpm8-/- mice exhibited a fall of 0.7°C in core body temperature when housed at cold temperatures, and a deep hypothermia (<30°C) during food deprivation. In both situations, TRPM8 deficiency induced an increase in tail heat loss. This, together with the presence of TRPM8-sensory fibers innervating the main tail vessels, unveils a major role of this ion channel in tail vasomotor regulation. Finally, TRPM8 deficiency had a remarkable impact on energy balance. Trpm8-/- mice raised at mild cold temperatures developed late-onset obesity and metabolic dysfunction, with daytime hyperphagia and reduction of fat oxidation as plausible causal factors. In conclusion, TRPM8 fine-tunes eating behavior and fuel utilization during thermoregulatory adjustments to mild cold. Persistent imbalances in these responses result in obesity.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The thermosensitive ion channel TRPM8 is required for a precise thermoregulatory response to cold and fasting, playing an important role in tail vasoconstriction, and therefore heat conservation, as well as in the regulation of ingestive behavior and metabolic fuel selection upon cooling. Indeed, TRPM8-deficient mice, housed in a mild cold environment, displayed an increase in tail heat loss and lower core body temperature, associated with the development of late-onset obesity with glucose and lipid metabolic dysfunction. A persistent diurnal hyperphagia and reduced fat oxidation constitute plausible underlying mechanisms in the background of a deficient thermoregulatory adjustment to mild cold ambient temperatures.

Keywords: TRPM8; food intake; fuel utilization; heat dissipation; obesity; thermoregulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation*
  • Eating
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Gene Deletion
  • Hyperphagia / genetics*
  • Hyperphagia / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • TRPM Cation Channels / genetics*
  • Tail / blood supply


  • TRPM Cation Channels
  • TRPM8 protein, mouse