A Genetically Heterogeneous Rat Model with Divergent Mitochondrial Genomes

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2023 May 11;78(5):771-779. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glad056.


We generated a genetically heterogenous rat model by a 4-way cross strategy using 4 inbred strains (Brown Norway [BN], Fischer 344 [F344], Lewis [LEW], and Wistar Kyoto [KY]) to provide investigators with a highly genetically diverse rat model from commercially available inbred rats. We made reciprocal crosses between males and females from the 2 F1 hybrids to generate genetically heterogeneous rats with mitochondrial genomes from either the BN (OKC-HETB, a.k.a "B" genotype) or WKY (OKC-HETW a.k.a "W" genotype) parental strains. These two mitochondrial genomes differ at 94 nucleotides, more akin to human mitochondrial genome diversity than that available in classical laboratory mouse strains. Body weights of the B and W genotypes were similar. However, mitochondrial genotype antagonistically affected grip strength and treadmill endurance in females only. In addition, mitochondrial genotype significantly affected multiple responses to a high-fat diet (HFD) and treatment with 17α-estradiol. Contrary to findings in mice in which males only are affected by 17α-estradiol supplementation, female rats fed a HFD beneficially responded to 17α-estradiol treatment as evidenced by declines in body mass, adiposity, and liver mass. Male rats, by contrast, differed in a mitochondrial genotype-specific manner, with only B males responding to 17α-estradiol treatment. Mitochondrial genotype and sex differences were also observed in features of brain-specific antioxidant response to a HFD and 17α-estradiol as shown by hippocampal levels of Sod2 acetylation, JNK, and FoxO3a. These results emphasize the importance of mitochondrial genotype in assessing responses to putative interventions in aging processes.

Keywords: Aging; Estrogen; Genetic diversity; Mitochondria; Physical function; Sex differences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Estradiol
  • Female
  • Genome, Mitochondrial*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Rats, Inbred WKY


  • Estradiol