The imprinted Zdbf2 gene finely tunes control of feeding and growth in neonates
Genomic imprinting refers to the mono-allelic and parent-specific expression of a subset of genes. While long recognized for their role in embryonic development, imprinted genes have recently emerged as important modulators of postnatal physiology, notably through hypothalamus-driven functions. Here, using mouse models of loss, gain and parental inversion of expression, we report that the paternally expressed Zdbf2 gene controls neonatal growth in mice, in a dose-sensitive but parent-of-origin-independent manner. We further found that Zdbf2-KO neonates failed to fully activate hypothalamic circuits that stimulate appetite, and suffered milk deprivation and diminished circulating Insulin Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). Consequently, only half of Zdbf2-KO pups survived the first days after birth and those surviving were smaller. This study demonstrates that precise imprinted gene dosage is essential for vital physiological functions at the transition from intra- to extra-uterine life, here the adaptation to oral feeding and optimized body weight gain.