Effect of the genetic background on the reproduction of leptin-deficient obese mice

Endocrinology. 1999 Feb;140(2):732-8. doi: 10.1210/endo.140.2.6470.


Obesity is often associated with an impairment of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. The leptin-deficient ob/ob mouse model is characterized by a morbid obesity with a sterility in males and females that is corrected by continuous leptin treatment. Since ob/ob mice are maintained on the C57BL/6J inbred genetic background, we sought to determine whether their infertility can be corrected without leptin treatment but via the effect of modifier genes brought into the obese-sterile phenotype by a different genetic background. Thus, we generated via an F2 intercross ob/ob mice on a mixed C57BL/6J-BALB/cJ genetic background and assayed them for fertility by mating with wild-type C57BL/6J mice. Whereas genetically heterogeneous F2 obese females remained sterile like male and female C57BL/6J ob/ob mice, 41% of F2 C57BL/6J-BALB/cJ obese males were capable of reproducing despite a morbidly obese state. Therefore, the sterility of the original C57BL/6J ob/ob mouse model was genetically corrected independently of its obese state via the effects of modifier genes. Unlike testosterone levels, triglyceride levels, and testes weight-to-body weight ratios, which were all higher in fertile vs. sterile mice, glucose levels were similar in both groups, indicating that the underlying hyperglycemia of ob/ob mice was not an impediment to the onset of fertility. A genome-wide scan in F2 ob/ob males resulted in the localization of four modifier loci on chromosomes 1, 3, 5, and 14 with respective quantitative traits consisting of number of pregnancies, testes weights normalized to body weights, body weight at 8 weeks of age, and circulating testosterone. We conclude that the inheritance of modifier genes at the identified loci acts to promote fertility of otherwise sterile leptin-deficient obese male mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Female
  • Infertility / etiology
  • Leptin
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C / genetics
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL / genetics
  • Obesity, Morbid / complications
  • Obesity, Morbid / genetics*
  • Obesity, Morbid / pathology
  • Obesity, Morbid / physiopathology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Reproduction / physiology*


  • Leptin
  • Proteins