British Journal of Nutrition

Review Article

Experimental rat models to study the metabolic syndrome

Amaya Aleixandre de Artiñanoa1 c1 and Marta Miguel Castroa1a2

a1 Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Complutense University, 28040 Madrid, Spain

a2 Instituto de Fermentaciones Industriales (CSIC), Madrid, Spain


Being the metabolic syndrome a multifactorial condition, it is difficult to find adequate experimental models to study this pathology. The obese Zucker rats, which are homozygous for the fa allele, present abnormalities similar to those seen in human metabolic syndrome and are a widely extended model of insulin resistance. The usefulness of these rats as a model of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is nevertheless questionable, and they neither can be considered a clear experimental model of hypertension. Some experimental models different from the obese Zucker rats have also been used to study the metabolic syndrome. Some derive from the spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR). In this context, the most important are the obese SHR, usually named Koletsky rats. Hyperinsulinism, associated with either normal or slightly elevated levels of blood glucose, is present in these animals, but SHR/N-corpulent rats are a more appropriated model of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. The SHR/NDmc corpulent rats, a subline of SHR/N-corpulent rats, also exhibit metabolic and histopathologic characteristics associated with human metabolic disorders. A new animal model of the metabolic syndrome, stroke-prone–SHR (SHRSP) fatty rats, was obtained by introducing a segment of the mutant leptin receptor gene from the Zucker line heterozygous for the fa gene mutation into the genetic background of the SHRSP. Very recently, it has been developed as a non-obese rat model with hypertension, fatty liver and characteristics of the metabolic syndrome by transgenic overexpression of a sterol-regulatory element-binding protein in the SHR rats. The Wistar Ottawa Karlsburg W rats are also a new strain that develops a nearly complete metabolic syndrome. Moreover, a new experimental model of low-capacity runner rats has also been developed with elevated blood pressure levels together with the other hallmarks of the metabolic syndrome.

(Received September 24 2008)

(Revised April 01 2009)

(Accepted May 18 2009)

(Online publication July 27 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Amaya Aleixandre de Artiñano, fax +34 91 3941463, email


Abbreviations: LCR, low-capacity runner rats; SHR, spontaneously hypertensive rats; SHRSP, stroke-prone–SHR; WOKW, Wistar Ottawa Karlsburg W