Open Access Open Badges Research article

Obesity resistant mechanisms in the Lean polygenic mouse model as indicated by liver transcriptome and expression of selected genes in skeletal muscle

Matjaž Simončič1, Tadeja Režen2, Peter Juvan2, Damjana Rozman2, Gregor Fazarinc3, Catherine Fievet4567, Bart Staels4567 and Simon Horvat18*

Author affiliations

1 University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Department of Animal Science, Groblje 3, 1230 Domžale, Slovenia

2 University of Ljubljana, Institute of Biochemistry, Medical Faculty, Vrazov trg 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

3 Institute of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, Veterinary faculty, University of Ljubljana, Gerbičeva 60, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

4 University Lille Nord de France, F-59000, Lille, France

5 Inserm, U1011, F-59000, Lille, France

6 UDSL, F-59000, Lille, France

7 Institut Pasteur de Lille, F-59019, Lille, France

8 National Institute of Chemistry, Hajdrihova 19, SI-1001 Ljubljana, Slovenia

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2011, 12:96  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-96

Published: 3 February 2011



Divergently selected Lean and Fat mouse lines represent unique models for a polygenic form of resistance and susceptibility to obesity development. Previous research on these lines focused mainly on obesity-susceptible factors in the Fat line. This study aimed to examine the molecular basis of obesity-resistant mechanisms in the Lean line by analyzing various fat depots and organs, the liver transcriptome of selected metabolic pathways, plasma and lipid homeostasis and expression of selected skeletal muscle genes.


Expression profiling using our custom Steroltalk v2 microarray demonstrated that Lean mice exhibit a higher hepatic expression of cholesterol biosynthesis genes compared to the Fat line, although this was not reflected in elevation of total plasma or liver cholesterol. However, FPLC analysis showed that protective HDL cholesterol was elevated in Lean mice. A significant difference between the strains was also found in bile acid metabolism. Lean mice had a higher expression of Cyp8b1, a regulatory enzyme of bile acid synthesis, and the Abcb11 bile acid transporter gene responsible for export of acids to the bile. Additionally, a higher content of blood circulating bile acids was observed in Lean mice. Elevated HDL and upregulation of some bile acids synthesis and transport genes suggests enhanced reverse cholesterol transport in the Lean line - the flux of cholesterol out of the body is higher which is compensated by upregulation of endogenous cholesterol biosynthesis. Increased skeletal muscle Il6 and Dio2 mRNA levels as well as increased activity of muscle succinic acid dehydrogenase (SDH) in the Lean mice demonstrates for the first time that changes in muscle energy metabolism play important role in the Lean line phenotype determination and corroborate our previous findings of increased physical activity and thermogenesis in this line. Finally, differential expression of Abcb11 and Dio2 identifies novel strong positional candidate genes as they map within the quantitative trait loci (QTL) regions detected previously in crosses between the Lean and Fat mice.


We identified novel candidate molecular targets and metabolic changes which can at least in part explain resistance to obesity development in the Lean line. The major difference between the Lean and Fat mice was in increased liver cholesterol biosynthesis gene mRNA expression, bile acid metabolism and changes in selected muscle genes' expression in the Lean line. The liver Abcb11 and muscle Dio2 were identified as novel positional candidate genes to explain part of the phenotypic difference between the Lean and Fat lines.