ST8 alpha-N-acetyl-neuraminide alpha-2,8-sialyltransferase 2 (ST8SIA2) synthesizes polysialic acid (PSA), which is essential for brain development. Although previous studies reported that St8sia2-deficient mice that have a mixed 129 and C57BL/6 (B6) genetic background showed mild and variable phenotypes, the reasons for this remain unknown. We hypothesized that this phenotypic difference is caused by diversity in the expression or function of flanking genes of St8sia2. A genomic polymorphism and gene expression analysis in the flanking region revealed reduced expression of insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (Igf1r) on the B6 background than on that of the 129 strain. This observation, along with the finding that administration of an IGF1R agonist during pregnancy increased litter size, suggests that the decreased expression of Igf1r associated with ST8SIA2 deficiency caused lethality. This study demonstrates the importance of gene expression level in the flanking regions of a targeted null allele having an effect on phenotype.