Cimino, I., Rimmington, D., Tung, Y.C.L. et al. Murine neuronatin deficiency is associated with a hypervariable food intake and bimodal obesity. Sci Rep 11, 17571 (2021). doi:10.1038/s41598-021-96278-8
Neuronatin (Nnat) has previously been reported to be part of a network of imprinted genes downstream of the chromatin regulator Trim28. Disruption of Trim28 or of members of this network, including neuronatin, results in an unusual phenotype of a bimodal body weight. To better characterise this variability, we examined the key contributors to energy balance in Nnat+/−p mice that carry a paternal null allele and do not express Nnat. Consistent with our previous studies, Nnat deficient mice on chow diet displayed a bimodal body weight phenotype with more than 30% of Nnat+/−p mice developing obesity. In response to both a 45% high fat diet and exposure to thermoneutrality (30 °C) Nnat deficient mice maintained the hypervariable body weight phenotype. Within a calorimetry system, food intake in Nnat+/−p mice was hypervariable, with some mice consuming more than twice the intake seen in wild type littermates. A hyperphagic response was also seen in Nnat+/−p mice in a second, non-home cage environment. An expected correlation between body weight and energy expenditure was seen, but corrections for the effects of positive energy balance and body weight greatly diminished the effect of neuronatin deficiency on energy expenditure. Male and female Nnat+/−p mice displayed subtle distinctions in the degree of variance body weight phenotype and food intake and further sexual dimorphism was reflected in different patterns of hypothalamic gene expression in Nnat+/−p mice. Loss of the imprinted gene Nnat is associated with a highly variable food intake, with the impact of this phenotype varying between genetically identical individuals.