In order to investigate the effects of fasting caecotrophy on hepatic lipid metabolism in rabbits, 12 weaned female New Zealand white rabbits were randomly divided into (n = 6/group) a control and fasting caecotrophy group. Rabbits in the experimental group were treated with an Elizabeth circle to prevent them from eating their own soft feces for a 60-day period. Growth and blood biochemical indices, transcriptome sequencing and histology analysis of the liver were performed. Compared with the control group, final weight, weight gain, liver weight, growth rate and feed conversion ratio, all decreased in the experimental group (p
< 0.05). RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) analysis revealed a total of 301.2 million raw reads (approximately 45.06 Gb of high-quality clean data) that were mapped to the rabbit genome. After a five-step filtering process, 14,964 genes were identified, including 444 differentially expressed genes (p
< 0.05, foldchange ≥ 1). A number of differently expressed genes linked to lipid metabolism were further analyzed including CYP7A1
, RBP4 and RDH5
. The KEGG (Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes) annotation of the differentially expressed genes indicated that main pathways affected were pentose and glucuronide interactions, starch and sucrose metabolism, retinol metabolism and PPAR
signaling. Overall, the present study revealed that preventing caecotrophy reduced growth and altered lipid metabolism, both of which will help guide the development of new approaches for rabbits’ feeding and production. These data also provide a reference for studying the effects of soft feces in other small herbivores.
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