Developmental programming links growth in early life with health status in adulthood. Although environmental factors such as maternal diet can influence the growth and adult health status of offspring, the genetic influences on this process are poorly understood. Using the mouse as a model, we identify the imprinted gene Grb10 as a mediator of nutrient supply and demand in the postnatal period. The combined actions of Grb10 expressed in the mother, controlling supply, and Grb10 expressed in the offspring, controlling demand, jointly regulate offspring growth. Furthermore, Grb10 determines the proportions of lean and fat tissue during development, thereby influencing energy homeostasis in the adult. Most strikingly, we show that the development of normal lean/fat proportions depends on the combined effects of Grb10 expressed in the mother, which has the greater effect on offspring adiposity, and Grb10 expressed in the offspring, which influences lean mass. These distinct functions of Grb10 in mother and pup act complementarily, which is consistent with a coadaptation model of imprinting evolution, a model predicted but for which there is limited experimental evidence. In addition, our findings identify Grb10 as a key genetic component of developmental programming, and highlight the need for a better understanding of mother-offspring interactions at the genetic level in predicting adult disease risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1001799
Number of pages13
JournalPL o S Biology
Issue number2
Early online date25 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2014


  • Animals
  • Body Size/genetics
  • Female
  • GRB10 Adaptor Protein/genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Genomic Imprinting
  • Karyopherins/physiology
  • Lactation/genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear/physiology
  • STAT5 Transcription Factor/physiology


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