Genetic background and diet affect brown adipose gene coexpression networks associated with metabolic phenotypes

Caryn Carson, Heather A. Lawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Adipose is a dynamic endocrine organ that is critical for regulating metabolism and is highly responsive to nutritional environment. Brown adipose tissue is an exciting potential therapeutic target; however, there are no systematic studies of gene-by-environment interactions affecting function of this organ. We leveraged a weighted gene coexpression network analysis to identify transcriptional networks in brown adipose tissue from LG/J and SM/J inbred mice fed high-or low-fat diets and correlate these networks with metabolic phenotypes. We identified eight primary gene network modules associated with variation in obesity and diabetes-related traits. Four modules were enriched for metabolically relevant processes such as immune and cytokine response, cell division, peroxisome functions, and organic molecule metabolic processes. The relative expression of genes in these modules is highly dependent on both genetic background and dietary environment. Genes in the immune/cytokine response and cell division modules are particularly highly expressed in high fat-fed SM/J mice, which show unique brown adipose-dependent remission of diabetes. The interconnectivity of genes in these modules is also heavily dependent on diet and strain, with most genes showing both higher expression and coexpression under the same context. We highlight several genes of interest, Col28a1, Cyp26b1, Bmp8b, and Ngef, that have distinct expression patterns among strain-by-diet contexts and fall under metabolic quantitative trait loci previously mapped in an F16 generation of an advanced intercross between LG/J and SM/J. Each of these genes have some connection to obesity and diabetes-related traits, but have not been studied in brown adipose tissue. Our results provide important insights into the relationship between brown adipose and systemic metabolism by being the first gene-by-environment study of brown adipose transcriptional net-works.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-233
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiological genomics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Brown adipose
  • Expression
  • Gene-by-environment
  • Mouse
  • Network


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