Feed efficiency (FE) is one of the most economically and environmentally relevant traits in the animal production sector. The objective of this study was to gain knowledge about the genetic control of FE in rabbits. To this end, GWASs were conducted for individual growth under two feeding regimes (full feeding and restricted) and FE traits collected from cage groups, using 114 604 autosome SNPs segregating in 438 rabbits. Two different models were implemented: (1) an animal model with a linear regression on each SNP allele for growth trait; and (2) a two-trait animal model, jointly fitting the performance trait and each SNP allele content, for FE traits. This last modeling strategy is a new tool applied to GWAS and allows information to be considered from non-genotyped individuals whose contribution is relevant in the group average traits. A total of 189 SNPs in 17 chromosomal regions were declared to be significantly associated with any of the five analyzed traits at a chromosome-wide level. In 12 of these regions, 20 candidate genes were proposed to explain the variation of the analyzed traits, including genes such as FTO, NDUFAF6 and CEBPA previously associated with growth and FE traits in monogastric species. Candidate genes associated with behavioral patterns were also identified. Overall, our results can be considered as the foundation for future functional research to unravel the actual causal mutations regulating growth and FE in rabbits.
- candidate gene
- feed efficiency
- genome-wide association study
- pooled records
- restricted feeding