The Newly Inbred Cohen Diabetic Rat: A Nonobese Normolipidemic Genetic Model of Diet-Induced Type 2 Diabetes Expressing Sex Differences

Yoram Yagil*, Sara Weksler-Zangen, Chana Yagil, David H. Zangen, Asher Ornoy, Howard J. Jacob

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


The newly inbred Cohen diabetic rat is an exceptional experimental model of diet-induced type 2 diabetes mellitus that is the result of secondary inbreeding nearly 30 years after it originally had been established. Animals from the original colony were selectively inbred by stringent criteria for 10 additional generations, bringing overall inbreeding to >50 generations. The metabolic phenotypes of the resulting contrasting strains, designated as the Cohen diabetic-sensitive (CDs) and -resistant (CDr) rats, were characterized. The phenotype of the CDs strain that was fed a regular diet consisted of fasting normoglycemia, normal glucose tolerance to intraperitoneal glucose loading, normal fasting insulin levels, and a normal insulin response to glucose loading. In contrast, CDs rats that were fed a custom-prepared high-sucrose low-copper diabetogenic diet became overtly diabetic: fasting glucose levels were normal or elevated, and the blood glucose insulin response to glucose loading was markedly abnormal. CDr rats that were fed a regular or diabetogenic diet did not develop diabetes and maintained normal glucose tolerance and insulin secretion. A striking sex difference was observed in CDs rats that were fed a diabetogenic diet: males had a lower growth rate and a more severe glucose intolerance pattern than females. Gonadectomy shortly after weaning did not prevent the development of the diabetic phenotype in its early phase in either sex but markedly attenuated its expression in males at a later phase, abolishing the sex differences. Alternate-day feeding, as opposed to daily feeding, also attenuated the metabolic phenotype in males. The development of the diabetic phenotype in CDs rats that were fed a diabetogenic diet was not accompanied by obesity or hyperlipidemia. The genetic profile of the strains was established using 550 microsatellite markers evenly distributed throughout the rat genome. The rate of homozygosity within strain was ≥96%. The rate of polymorphism between the contrasting strains was 43%. We conclude that the metabolic phenotypes of the rebred colony of CDs and CDr rats and their genetic makeup render the Cohen diabetic rat a useful experimental model that is highly suitable for studying the interaction between nutritional-metabolic environmental factors and genetic susceptibility (sensitivity and resistance) for the development of type 2 diabetes. The model is also distinctively useful for investigating the effect of sex on the expression of the diabetic phenotype.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2521-2529
Number of pages9
Issue number7-12
StatePublished - Nov 2001
Externally publishedYes


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