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Are animal models of diabetes relevant to the study of the genetics of non-insulin-dependent diabetes in humans?

Although it is well-recognized that non-insulin-dependent diabetes-mellitus (NIDDM) shown a strong genetic component the search for candidate genes has been very difficult since NIDDM is a complex, heterogeneous, multifactorial syndrome resulting from both genetic susceptibility and environmental risk factors. Therefore, the use of inbred animal models is an essential component of genetic investigations in this field. As these lines are genetically homogeneous, it is possible to direct mating for optimal genetic crosses and control environmental factors. Strains with spontaneous NIDDM may be constituted from animals with one or several genetic mutation(s) transmitted generation to generation or selected from non-diabetic outbred animals by repeated breeding. The ob/ob and db/db mice, which are rodent models of NIDDM and obesity, belong to the first category. Recent studies using the positional cloning approach allowed the mapping of ob gene and identification of its product, leptin, which is a protein secreted by white adipose tissue and involved in the control of food intake. The db gene encodes the leptin receptor. The search for genetic linkage was undertaken in polygenic models, especially the Goto-Kakisaki (GK) rat which was obtained by selective breeding of individuals with glucose intolerance from a non-diabetic Wistar rat colony. Though precise definition of sub-phenotypes of glucose tolerance and insulin secretion, the mapping of microsatellite markers and QTL analysis, it has proved possible to identify many independent loci containing genes regulating glucose homeostasis and insulin secretion. In another polygenic model, the OLETF rat, a locus present on chromosome X was identified. Many complementary approaches in different strains may lead to the identification of candidate genes for NIDDM and help direct the search for candidate genes in humans who show synteny relationships with rodents.[1]


  1. Are animal models of diabetes relevant to the study of the genetics of non-insulin-dependent diabetes in humans? Ktorza, A., Bernard, C., Parent, V., Penicaud, L., Froguel, P., Lathrop, M., Gauguier, D. Diabetes Metab. (1997) [Pubmed]
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