Traits related to energy balance and obesity are exceptionally complex, with varying contributions of genetic susceptibility and interacting environmental factors. The use of mouse models has been a powerful driving force in understanding the genetic architecture of polygenic traits such as obesity. However, the use of mouse models for analysis of complex traits is at an important crossroad. Genome-wide association studies in humans are now leading to direct identification of obesity genes. In this review, we focus on three areas representing the current and future roles of mouse models regarding genetics of complex obesity. First, we summarize increasingly powerful ways to harness the strength of mouse models for discovery of genes affecting polygenic obesity. Second, we examine the status of using a systems biology approach to dissect the genetic architecture of obesity. And third, we explore the effects of recent findings indicating increasing levels of complexity in the nature of variation underlying, and the heritability of, complex traits such as obesity.
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