Chromosomal translocations in human lipomas frequently create fusion transcripts encoding high mobility group (HMG) I-C DNA-binding domains and C-terminal sequences from different presumed transcription factors, suggesting a potential role for HMG I-C in the development of lipomas. To evaluate the role of the HMG I-C component, the three DNA-binding domains of HMG I-C have now been expressed in transgenic mice. Despite the ubiquitous expression of the truncated HMG I-C protein, the transgenic mice develop a selective abundance of fat tissue early in life, show marked adipose tissue inflammation, and have an abnormally high incidence of lipomas. These findings demonstrate that the DNA-binding domains of HMG I-C, in the absence of a C-terminal fusion partner, are sufficient to perturb adipogenesis and predispose to lipomas. We provide data supporting the central utility of this animal model as a tool to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of one of the most common kind of human benign tumors.