Thermoneutral housing does not influence fat mass or glucose homeostasis in C57BL/6 mice

J Endocrinol. 2018 Dec 1;239(3):313-324. doi: 10.1530/JOE-18-0279.


One major factor affecting physiology often overlooked when comparing data from animal models and humans is the effect of ambient temperature. The majority of rodent housing is maintained at ~22°C, the thermoneutral temperature for lightly clothed humans. However, mice have a much higher thermoneutral temperature of ~30°C, consequently data collected at 22°C in mice could be influenced by animals being exposed to a chronic cold stress. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of housing temperature on glucose homeostasis and energy metabolism of mice fed normal chow or a high-fat, obesogenic diet (HFD). Male C57BL/6J(Arc) mice were housed at standard temperature (22°C) or at thermoneutrality (29°C) and fed either chow or a 60% HFD for 13 weeks. The HFD increased fat mass and produced glucose intolerance as expected but this was not exacerbated in mice housed at thermoneutrality. Changing the ambient temperature, however, did alter energy expenditure, food intake, lipid content and glucose metabolism in skeletal muscle, liver and brown adipose tissue. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that mice regulate energy balance at different housing temperatures to maintain whole-body glucose tolerance and adiposity irrespective of the diet. Despite this, metabolic differences in individual tissues were apparent. In conclusion, dietary intervention in mice has a greater impact on adiposity and glucose metabolism than housing temperature although temperature is still a significant factor in regulating metabolic parameters in individual tissues.

Keywords: ambient temperature; energy balance; glucose metabolism; thermoneutrality.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Body Composition
  • Body Weight
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism*
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Energy Intake*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Housing, Animal / standards*
  • Insulin / blood
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Temperature*
  • Triglycerides / metabolism
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / metabolism


  • Insulin
  • Triglycerides
  • Ucp1 protein, mouse
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Glucose