There is growing awareness that complex interactions among multiple genes and environmental factors play an important role in controlling obesity traits. The BSB mouse, which is produced by the backcross of (lean C57BL/6J × lean Mus spretus) × C57BL/6J, provides an excellent model of epistatic obesity. To evaluate potential epistatic interactions among six chromosomal regions previously determined to influence obesity phenotypes, we performed novel Bayesian analyses on the basis of both epistatic and nonepistatic models for four obesity traits: percentage of body fat, adiposity index, total fat mass, and body weight, and also for plasma total cholesterol. The epistatic analysis detected at least one more QTL than the nonepistatic analysis did for all obesity traits. These obesity traits were variously influenced by QTL on chromosomes 2, 7, 12, 15, and 16. Interaction between genes on chromosomes 2 and 12 was present for all obesity traits, accounting for 3-4.8% of the phenotypic variation. Chromosome 12 was found to have weak main effects on all obesity traits. Several different epistatic interactions were also detected for percentage of body fat, adiposity index, and total fat mass. Chromosomes 6 and 12 have not only main effects but also strong epistatic effects on plasma total cholesterol. Our results emphasize the importance of modeling epistasis for discovery of obesity genes.
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