In the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), a polytocous livestock species, the number of teats indirectly impacts the doe reproduction efficiency and, in turn, the sustainable production of rabbit meat. In this study, we carried out a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for the total number of teats in 247 Italian White does included in the Italian White rabbit breed selection program, by applying a selective genotyping approach. Does had either 8 (n = 121) or 10 teats (n = 126). All rabbits were genotyped with the Affymetrix Axiom OrcunSNP Array. Genomic data from the two extreme groups of rabbits were also analysed with the single-marker fixation index statistic and combined with the GWAS results. The GWAS identified 50 significant SNPs and the fixation index analysis identified a total of 20 SNPs that trespassed the 99.98th percentile threshold, 19 of which confirmed the GWAS results. The most significant SNP (P = 4.31 × 10−11) was located on OCU1, close to the NUDT2 gene, a breast carcinoma cells proliferation promoter. Another significant SNP identified as candidate gene NR6A1, which is well known to play an important role in affecting the correlated number of vertebrae in pigs. Other significant markers were close to candidate genes involved in determining body length in mice. Markers associated with increased number of teats could be included in selection programmes to speed up the improvement for this trait in rabbit lines that need to increase maternal performances.
- livestock genomics
- single nucleotide polymorphism
- maternal efficiency