Obesity is a major health problem worldwide. We are studying the causes and effects of obesity in C57Bl/6 mice following genetic ablation of NG2, a chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan widely expressed in progenitor cells and also in adipocytes. Although global NG2 ablation delays early postnatal adipogenesis in mouse skin, adult NG2 null mice are paradoxically heavier than wild-type mice, exhibiting larger white fat deposits. This adult onset obesity is not due to NG2-dependent effects on CNS function, since specific ablation of NG2 in oligodendrocyte progenitors yields the opposite phenotype; i.e. abnormally lean mice. Metabolic analysis reveals that, while activity and food intake are unchanged in global NG2 null mice, O(2) consumption and CO(2) production are decreased, suggesting a decrease in energy expenditure. Since brown fat plays important roles in regulating energy expenditure, we have investigated brown fat function via cold challenge and high fat diet feeding, both of which induce the adaptive thermogenesis that normally occurs in brown fat. In both tests, body temperatures in NG2 null mice are reduced compared to wild-type mice, indicating a deficit in brown fat function in the absence of NG2. In addition, adipogenesis in NG2 null brown pre-adipocytes is dramatically impaired compared to wild-type counterparts. Moreover, mRNA levels for PR domain containing 16 (PRDM16) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator (PGC)1-α, proteins important for brown adipocyte differentiation, are decreased in NG2 null brown fat deposits in vivo and NG2 null brown pre-adipocytes in vitro. Altogether, these results indicate that brown fat dysfunction in NG2 null mice results from deficits in the recruitment and/or development of brown pre-adipocytes. As a consequence, obesity in NG2 null mice may occur due to disruptions in brown fat-dependent energy homeostasis, with resulting effects on lipid storage in white adipocytes.