Animal models have enriched understanding of the physiological basis of metabolic disorders and advanced identification of genetic risk factors underlying the metabolic syndrome (MetS). Murine models are especially appropriate for this type of research, and are an excellent resource not only for identifying candidate genomic regions, but also for illuminating the possible molecular mechanisms or pathways affected in individual components of MetS. In this review, we briefly discuss findings from mouse models of metabolic disorders, particularly in light of issues raised by the recent flood of human genome-wide association studies (GWAS) results. We describe how mouse models are revealing that genotype interacts with environment in important ways, indicating that the underlying genetics of MetS is highly context dependant. Further we show that epistasis, imprinting and maternal effects each contribute to the genetic architecture underlying variation in metabolic traits, and mouse models provide an opportunity to dissect these aspects of the genetic architecture that are difficult if not impossible to ascertain in humans. Finally we discuss how knowledge gained from mouse models can be used in conjunction with comparative genomic methods and bioinformatic resources to inform human MetS research.
Keywords: Metabolic syndrome, hypertension, obesity, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, murine models, bioinformatics, comparative genomics, genome-wide association studies
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