A genome-wide association study of coat color in Chinese Rex rabbits

Front Vet Sci. 2023 Aug 16:10:1184764. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2023.1184764. eCollection 2023.


Coat color is an important phenotypic characteristic of the domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and has specific economic importance in the Rex rabbit industry. Coat color varies considerably among different populations of rabbits, and several causal genes for this variation have been thoroughly studied. Nevertheless, the candidate genes affecting coat color variation in Chinese Rex rabbits remained to be investigated. In this study, we collected blood samples from 250 Chinese Rex rabbits with six different coat colors. We performed genome sequencing using a restriction site-associated DNA sequencing approach. A total of 91,546 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), evenly distributed among 21 autosomes, were identified. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) were performed using a mixed linear model, in which the individual polygenic effect was fitted as a random effect. We detected a total of 24 significant SNPs that were located within a genomic region on chromosome 4 (OCU4). After re-fitting the most significant SNP (OCU4:13,434,448, p = 1.31e-12) as a covariate, another near-significant SNP (OCU4:11,344,946, p = 7.03e-07) was still present. Hence, we conclude that the 2.1-Mb genomic region located between these two significant SNPs is significantly associated with coat color in Chinese Rex rabbits. The well-studied coat-color-associated agouti signaling protein (ASIP) gene is located within this region. Furthermore, low genetic differentiation was also observed among the six coat color varieties. In conclusion, our results confirmed that ASIP is a putative causal gene affecting coat color variation in Chinese Rex rabbits.

Keywords: GWAS; RAD-seq; Rex rabbits; coat color; genome.