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Review
, 42 Suppl 2, 10-6

Mechanisms of Regulation of Litter Size in Pigs on the Genome Level

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Review

Mechanisms of Regulation of Litter Size in Pigs on the Genome Level

O Distl. Reprod Domest Anim.

Abstract

Improvement in litter size has become of great interest in pig industry as good fecundity is directly related to a sow's productive life. Genetic regulation of litter size is complex and the main component traits so far defined are ovulation rate, embryonic survival, uterus capacity, foetal survival and pre-weaning losses. Improvements using concepts of the quantitative genetics let expect only slow genetic progress due to its low heritability of approximately 0.09 for number of piglets born alive. Marker assisted selection allows to dissect litter size in its component traits and using molecular genetic markers for the components of litter size traits promises more progress and advantages in optimum balancing of the different physiological mechanisms influencing litter size. In this review, efforts being made to unravel the genetic determinants of litter size are accounted and discussed. For litter size traits, more than 50 quantitative trait loci (QTL) were mapped and in more than 12 candidate genes associations confirmed. The number of useful candidate genes is much larger as shown by expression profiles and in addition, much more QTL can be assumed. These functional genomic approaches, both QTL mapping and candidate gene analysis, have to be merged for a better understanding of a wider application across different pig breeds and lines. Newly developed tools based on microarray techniques comprising DNA variants or expressed tags of many genes or even the whole genome appear useful for in depth understanding of the genetics of litter size in pigs.

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