We hypothesized that changes in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) would significantly influence whole body metabolism, adiposity and gene expression in response to diet. Because it is not feasible to directly test these predictions in humans we used Mitochondrial-Nuclear eXchange mice, which have reciprocally exchanged nuclear and mitochondrial genomes between different Mus musculus strains. Results demonstrate that nuclear-mitochondrial genetic background combination significantly alters metabolic efficiency and body composition. Comparative RNA sequencing analysis in adipose tissues also showed a clear influence of the mtDNA on regulating nuclear gene expression on the same nuclear background (up to a 10-fold change in the number of differentially expressed genes), revealing that neither Mendelian nor mitochondrial genetics unilaterally control gene expression. Additional analyses indicate that nuclear-mitochondrial genome combination modulates gene expression in a manner heretofore not described. These findings provide a new framework for understanding complex genetic disease susceptibility.