Carneiro M, Piorno V, Rubin CJ, Alves JM, Ferrand N, Alves PC, Andersson L
Anim. Genet. 46 (4) 418-425 [2015-08-00; online 2015-05-22]
Reproductive seasonality is a trait that often differs between domestic animals and their wild ancestors, with domestic animals showing prolonged or even continuous breeding seasons. However, the genetic basis underlying this trait is still poorly understood for most species, and because environmental factors and resource availability are known to play an important role in determining breeding seasons, it is also not clear in most cases to what extent this phenotypic shift is determined by the more lenient captive conditions or by genetic factors. Here, using animals resulting from an initial cross between wild and domestic rabbits followed by two consecutive backcrosses (BC1 and BC2) to wild rabbits, we evaluated the yearly distribution of births for the different generations. Similar to domestic rabbits, F1 animals could be bred all year round but BC1 and BC2 animals showed a progressive and significant reduction in the span of the breeding season, providing experimental evidence that reduced seasonal breeding in domestic rabbits has a clear genetic component and is not a simple by-product of rearing conditions. We then took advantage of a recently published genome-wide scan of selection in the domesticated lineage and searched for candidate genes potentially associated with this phenotypic shift. Candidate genes located within regions targeted by selection include well-known examples of genes controlling clock functions (CRY1 and NR3C1) and reproduction (PRLR).