Special Issue "Challenges and New Strategies on Rabbit Breeding"

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Animal Reproduction".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Rosa María García-García
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Physiology, Veterinary Faculty, Complutense University, Avda Puerta de Hierro s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain
Interests: embryo; oocyte; follicle; female; ovulation; growth factors; nutrition; hormones; animal reproduction; rabbit
Dr. Maria Arias Alvarez
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Animal Production, Veterinary Faculty, Complutense University, Avda Puerta de Hierro s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain
Interests: oocyte competence; preimplantation embryo development; ovary; oviduct; reproductive biotechnologies; nutritional strategies; reproductive physiology; rabbit

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In the coming decades, the demand for livestock products will increase with the dramatic rise in world population rises in addition to consumers becoming more conscious and demanding high-quality products. Rabbit husbandry, particularly important in the Mediterranean area and in the semi-arid zones of Africa, Asia, or America, represents a valuable alternative source of good animal protein of high quality (low fat and low cholesterol). As rabbits are being chosen, worldwide, as a livestock species due to their reproductive and feeding advantages, modern rabbit breeding will face some important future challenges that must be resolved in the next few years to ensure it remains a competitive and sustainable sector. Different strategies should be used to maintain a balance between rabbit welfare, customer demands, and breeder requirements. An improvement in breeding systems is needed, and may involve avoiding hormones and antibiotics; enhancing the efficiency of reproductive procedures such as artificial insemination systems or freezing of semen and embryos, among others; extending the productive lifespan of does; and adjusting nutritional systems to optimize the physiological status of animals. This Special Issue aimed to publish high-quality manuscripts, including original research studies and reviews, that mainly address any of these topics in increasing rabbit productivity and sustainability.

Dr. Rosa María García-García
Dr. Maria Arias Alvarez
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • rabbit
  • reproduction
  • nutrition
  • welfare
  • productivity
  • sustainability
  • meat
  • longevity

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

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Article
Influence of Different Regimes of Moderate Maternal Feed Restriction during Pregnancy of Primiparous Rabbit Does on Long-Term Metabolic Energy Homeostasis, Productive Performance and Welfare
Animals 2021, 11(9), 2736; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092736 - 19 Sep 2021
Viewed by 598
Abstract
In this study, a maternal feed restriction (MFR; 105 g/d) in primiparous rabbit does was applied from day 0 to 7 post artificial insemination (AI) (R07, n = 96), from day 7 to 21 post AI (R721, n = 92), from day 0 [...] Read more.
In this study, a maternal feed restriction (MFR; 105 g/d) in primiparous rabbit does was applied from day 0 to 7 post artificial insemination (AI) (R07, n = 96), from day 7 to 21 post AI (R721, n = 92), from day 0 to 21 post AI (R021, n = 94) or fed ad libitum during whole pregnancy (Control, n= 92). Feed intake (FI) was measured after MFR was over. On day 28 of gestation, fetoplacental development was evaluated (n = 11/group) and the productive parameters of the remaining dams were analyzed. Plasma free tri-iodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine, glucose, insulin, non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA), and corticosterone were analyzed during gestation and lactation (n = 5/group). After MFR, all groups significantly increased their voluntary FI. The longer MFR was, the lower the weight and length of the fetuses, but no long-term effects over litter performance were observed. R021 groups had the lowest T3 and the highest NEFA concentrations during pregnancy and showed insulin resistance at the end of gestation, but during lactation, energy homeostasis was balanced in all groups. MFR did not affect corticosterone concentrations. In conclusion, the ration setting applied slightly involved the energy homeostasis and metabolism of the animals, but their overall metabolic condition, productive performance and welfare were not compromised. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and New Strategies on Rabbit Breeding)
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Article
Relationship between Body Chemical Composition and Reproductive Traits in Rabbit Does
Animals 2021, 11(8), 2299; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11082299 - 04 Aug 2021
Viewed by 898
Abstract
The relationship among live weight, chemical body composition and energy content (at artificial insemination (AI) and three days before parturition), estimated by bioelectrical impedance with fertility rates and the percentage of kits born alive, was studied during the first three AI. The first [...] Read more.
The relationship among live weight, chemical body composition and energy content (at artificial insemination (AI) and three days before parturition), estimated by bioelectrical impedance with fertility rates and the percentage of kits born alive, was studied during the first three AI. The first AI was conducted at 16 weeks of age in 137 rabbit does that weighted 3.91 ± 0.46 kg. Their body chemical composition was 17.4 ± 0.50%, 16.1 ± 2.6%, 1067 ± 219 kJ/100 g body weight, for protein, fat and energy, respectively. An increase in body protein, fat and energy content at the first AI did not affect fertility at the first AI but improved it at the second AI (p ≤ 0.030). Moreover, an increase in body fat and energy content at the second AI improved fertility at the second AI (p ≤ 0.001). Fertility at the third AI was positively influenced by body protein at the third AI and the increase in body protein and fat between the second parturition and the third AI (p ≤ 0.030). The percentage of kits born alive at the first and at the second AI improved with the increase in body protein at the first AI (p ≤ 0.040). In conclusion, a minimal body protein and fat content is required at the first AI to optimize the reproductive performance in young does. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and New Strategies on Rabbit Breeding)
Article
Modulation of Cathepsin S (CTSS) Regulates the Secretion of Progesterone and Estradiol, Proliferation, and Apoptosis of Ovarian Granulosa Cells in Rabbits
Animals 2021, 11(6), 1770; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061770 - 13 Jun 2021
Viewed by 1538
Abstract
Cathepsin S (CTSS) is a member of cysteine protease family. Although many studies have demonstrated the vital role of CTSS in many physiological and pathological processes including tumor growth, angiogenesis and metastasis, the function of CTSS in the development of rabbit [...] Read more.
Cathepsin S (CTSS) is a member of cysteine protease family. Although many studies have demonstrated the vital role of CTSS in many physiological and pathological processes including tumor growth, angiogenesis and metastasis, the function of CTSS in the development of rabbit granulosa cells (GCS) remains unknown. To address this question, we isolated rabbit GCS and explored the regulatory function of the CTSS gene in cell proliferation and apoptosis. CTSS overexpression significantly promoted the secretion of progesterone (P4) and estrogen (E2) by increasing the expression of STAR and CYP19A1 (p < 0.05). We also found that overexpression of CTSS increased GCS proliferation by up-regulating the expression of proliferation related gene (PCNA) and anti-apoptotic gene (BCL2). Cell apoptosis was markedly decreased by CTSS activation (p < 0.05). In contrast, CTSS knockdown significantly decreased the secretion of P4 and E2 and the proliferation of rabbit GCS, while increasing the apoptosis of rabbit GCS. Taken together, our results highlight the important role of CTSS in regulating hormone secretion, cell proliferation, and apoptosis in rabbit GCS. These results might provide a basis for better understanding the molecular mechanism of rabbit reproduction. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and New Strategies on Rabbit Breeding)
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Article
Antibacterial Activity of Some Molecules Added to Rabbit Semen Extender as Alternative to Antibiotics
Animals 2021, 11(4), 1178; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11041178 - 20 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 615
Abstract
Although great attention is paid to hygiene during semen collection and processing, bacteria are commonly found in the semen of healthy fertile males of different species. As the storage of extended semen might facilitate bacterial growth, extenders are commonly supplemented with antibiotics. This [...] Read more.
Although great attention is paid to hygiene during semen collection and processing, bacteria are commonly found in the semen of healthy fertile males of different species. As the storage of extended semen might facilitate bacterial growth, extenders are commonly supplemented with antibiotics. This study aimed to evaluate the antibacterial activity of ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), bestatin and chitosan-based nanoparticles added to rabbit semen extender and their effect on reproductive performance under field conditions. Four different extenders were tested, supplemented with antibiotics (TCG+AB), with EDTA and bestatin (EB), with EDTA, bestatin and chitosan-based nanoparticles (QEB) or without antibiotics (TCG-AB). Extended semen was cooled at 15 °C for three days. Cooled samples were examined for bacterial growth and semen quality every 24 h for 3 days. The enterobacteria count increased considerably during storage at 72 h in semen extended with TCG+AB and TCG-AB, while extenders EB and QEB showed a bacteriostatic effect over time. After 24, 48 and 72 h, quality characteristics were retained in all groups, with no significant motility differences, either in acrosome integrity, membrane functionality or the viability of spermatozoa. Additionally, bacterial concentration present in fresh semen did not affect reproductive performance. In conclusion, EDTA and bestatin exerted a potent bacteriostatic effect over time and could be used as an alternative to conventional antibiotics in rabbit semen extenders. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and New Strategies on Rabbit Breeding)
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Article
Genotype Imputation to Improve the Cost-Efficiency of Genomic Selection in Rabbits
Animals 2021, 11(3), 803; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030803 - 13 Mar 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 824
Abstract
Genomic selection uses genetic marker information to predict genomic breeding values (gEBVs), and can be a suitable tool for selecting low-hereditability traits such as litter size in rabbits. However, genotyping costs in rabbits are still too high to enable genomic prediction in selective [...] Read more.
Genomic selection uses genetic marker information to predict genomic breeding values (gEBVs), and can be a suitable tool for selecting low-hereditability traits such as litter size in rabbits. However, genotyping costs in rabbits are still too high to enable genomic prediction in selective breeding programs. One method for decreasing genotyping costs is the genotype imputation, where parents are genotyped at high SNP-density (HD) and the progeny are genotyped at lower SNP-density, followed by imputation to HD. The aim of this study was to disentangle the best imputation strategies with a trade-off between genotyping costs and the accuracy of breeding values for litter size. A selection process, mimicking a commercial breeding rabbit selection program for litter size, was simulated. Two different Quantitative Trait Nucleotide (QTN) models (QTN_5 and QTN_44) were generated 36 times each. From these simulations, seven different scenarios (S1–S7) and a further replicate of the third scenario (S3_A) were created. Scenarios consist of a different combination of genotyping strategies. In these scenarios, ancestors and progeny were genotyped with a mix of three different platforms, containing 200,000, 60,000, and 600 SNPs under a cost of EUR 100, 50 and 11 per animal, respectively. Imputation accuracy (IA) was measured as a Pearson’s correlation between true genotype and imputed genotype, whilst the accuracy of gEBVs was the correlation between true breeding value and the estimated one. The relationships between IA, the accuracy of gEBVs, genotyping costs, and response to selection were examined under each QTN model. QTN_44 presented better performance, according to the results of genomic prediction, but the same ranks between scenarios remained in both QTN models. The highest IA (0.99) and the accuracy of gEBVs (0.26; QTN_44, and 0.228; QTN_5) were observed in S1 where all ancestors were genotyped at HD and progeny at medium SNP-density (MD). Nevertheless, this was the most expensive scenario compared to the others in which the progenies were genotyped at low SNP-density (LD). Scenarios with low average costs presented low IA, particularly when female ancestors were genotyped at LD (S5) or non-genotyped (S7). The S3_A, imputing whole-genomes, had the lowest accuracy of gEBVs (0.09), even worse than Best Linear Unbiased Prediction (BLUP). The best trade-off between genotyping costs and the accuracy of gEBVs (0.234; QTN_44 and 0.199) was in S6, in which dams were genotyped with MD whilst grand-dams were non-genotyped. However, this relationship would depend mainly on the distribution of QTN and SNP across the genome, suggesting further studies on the characterization of the rabbit genome in the Spanish lines. In summary, genomic selection with genotype imputation is feasible in the rabbit industry, considering only genotyping strategies with suitable IA, accuracy of gEBVs, genotyping costs, and response to selection. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and New Strategies on Rabbit Breeding)
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Article
Semen Modulates Inflammation and Angiogenesis in the Reproductive Tract of Female Rabbits
Animals 2020, 10(12), 2207; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10122207 - 25 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 813
Abstract
The maternal environment modulates immune responses to facilitate embryo development and ensure pregnancy. Unraveling this modulation could improve the livestock breeding systems. Here it is hypothesized that the exposure of the female rabbit reproductive tract to semen, as well as to early embryos, [...] Read more.
The maternal environment modulates immune responses to facilitate embryo development and ensure pregnancy. Unraveling this modulation could improve the livestock breeding systems. Here it is hypothesized that the exposure of the female rabbit reproductive tract to semen, as well as to early embryos, modulates inflammation and angiogenesis among different tissue segments. qPCR analysis of the gene expression changes of the anti-inflammatory interleukin-10 (IL10) and transforming growth factor beta family (TGFβ1–3) and the angiogenesis mediator vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF-A) were examined in response to mating or insemination with sperm-free seminal plasma (SP). Reproductive tract segment (cervix to infundibulum) samples were obtained in Experiment 1, 20 h after gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) stimulation (control), natural mating (NM) or vaginal infusion with sperm-free SP (SP-AI). Additionally, segmented samples were also obtained at 10, 24, 36, 68 or 72 h after GnRH-stimulation and natural mating (Experiment 2). The results of gene expression, analyzed by quantitative PCR, showed that NM effects were mainly localized in the uterine tissues, depicting clear temporal variation, while SP-AI effects were restricted to the oviduct. Changes in anti-inflammatory and angiogenesis mediators indicate an early response in the uterus and a late modulation in the oviduct either induced by semen or preimplantation embryos. This knowledge could be used in the implementation of physiological strategies in breeding systems to face the new challenges on rabbit productivity and sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and New Strategies on Rabbit Breeding)
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Article
Impact of Goji Berries (Lycium barbarum) Supplementation on the Energy Homeostasis of Rabbit Does: Uni- and Multivariate Approach
Animals 2020, 10(11), 2000; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10112000 - 30 Oct 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1275
Abstract
This study examined the effects of goji berries dietary supplementation on the energetic metabolism of doe. Thirty days before artificial insemination, 75 New Zealand White does were assigned to three different diets: commercial standard diet (C) and supplemented with 1% (LG) and 3% [...] Read more.
This study examined the effects of goji berries dietary supplementation on the energetic metabolism of doe. Thirty days before artificial insemination, 75 New Zealand White does were assigned to three different diets: commercial standard diet (C) and supplemented with 1% (LG) and 3% (HG) of goji berries, respectively. Body conditions, hormones and metabolites were monitored until weaning. Body weight and BCS were higher in HG than C (p < 0.05). LG showed lower T3/T4 ratio and cortisol concentrations (p < 0.05) and tended to have lower indices of insulin resistances (p < 0.1) than HG. Compared to control, leptin was higher in HG at AI (p < 0.01) and in LG during lactation (p < 0.05). Two principal components were extracted by multivariate analysis describing the relationships between (1) non-esterified fatty acids, insulin and glucose levels, and (2) body conditions and leptin metabolism. The first component highlighted the energy deficit and the insulin resistance of the does during pregnancy and lactation. The second one showed that leptin, body weight and Body Condition Score (BCS) enhance as levels of goji berries in the diet increase. Thus, the effects of goji supplementation are dose-dependent: an improvement on energy metabolism was achieved with a low-dose while the highest dose could determine excessive fattening and insulin resistance in does. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and New Strategies on Rabbit Breeding)
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Article
Myeloperoxidase and Lysozymes as a Pivotal Hallmark of Immunity Status in Rabbits
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1581; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091581 - 04 Sep 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 746
Abstract
Infectious diseases, due to their massive scale, are the greatest pain for all rabbit breeders. Viral infections cause enormous economic losses in farms. Treating sick rabbits is very difficult and expensive, so it is very important to prevent disease by vaccinating. In order [...] Read more.
Infectious diseases, due to their massive scale, are the greatest pain for all rabbit breeders. Viral infections cause enormous economic losses in farms. Treating sick rabbits is very difficult and expensive, so it is very important to prevent disease by vaccinating. In order to successfully fight viral infections, it is important to know about the immune response of an infected animal. The aim of this study was to analyze the immune response mediated by antimicrobial peptides (myeloperoxidase (MPO) and lysozyme (LZM)) in peripheral blood neutrophils and rabbit serum by non-invasive immunological methods. The study was carried out on mixed breed rabbits that were experimentally infected with two strains (Erfurt and Rossi) of the Lagovirus europaeus/GI.1a virus. It has been observed that virus infection causes changes in the form of statistically significant increases in the activity of MPO and LZM concentration, while in the case of LZM activity only statistically significant decreases were noted. Additionally, clinical symptoms typical for the course of the disease were noted, and the probability of survival of the animals at 60 h p.i. (post infection) was 30% for the Erfurt strain, and −60% for the Rossi strain. The obtained results of MPO and LZMs suggest that these enzymes, especially MPO, may serve as a prognostic marker of the state of the immune system of rabbits. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and New Strategies on Rabbit Breeding)
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Article
A Genome-Wide Association Study Identifying Genetic Variants Associated with Growth, Carcass and Meat Quality Traits in Rabbits
Animals 2020, 10(6), 1068; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10061068 - 20 Jun 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 790
Abstract
Growth, carcass characteristics and meat quality are the most important traits used in the rabbit industry. Identification of the candidate markers and genes significantly associated with these traits will be beneficial in rabbit breeding. In this study, we enrolled 465 rabbits, including 16 [...] Read more.
Growth, carcass characteristics and meat quality are the most important traits used in the rabbit industry. Identification of the candidate markers and genes significantly associated with these traits will be beneficial in rabbit breeding. In this study, we enrolled 465 rabbits, including 16 male Californian rabbits and 17 female Kangda5 line rabbits as the parental generation, along with their offspring (232 male and 200 female), in a genome-wide association study (GWAS) based on SLAF-seq technology. Bodyweight at 35, 42, 49, 56, 63 and 70 d was recorded for growth traits; and slaughter liveweight (84 d) and dressing out percentage were measured as carcass traits; and cooking loss and drip loss were measured as meat quality traits. A total of 5,223,720 SLAF markers were obtained by digesting the rabbit genome using RsaI + EcoRV-HF® restriction enzymes. After quality control, a subset of 317,503 annotated single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was retained for subsequent analysis. A total of 28, 81 and 10 SNPs for growth, carcass and meat quality traits, respectively, were identified based on genome-wide significance (p < 3.16 × 10−7). Additionally, 16, 71 and 9 candidate genes were identified within 100 kb upstream or downstream of these SNPs. Further analysis is required to determine the biological roles of these candidate genes in determining rabbit growth, carcass traits and meat quality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and New Strategies on Rabbit Breeding)
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Review

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Review
Strategies for Highly Efficient Rabbit Sperm Cryopreservation
Animals 2021, 11(5), 1220; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051220 - 23 Apr 2021
Viewed by 663
Abstract
The rabbit is a valuable animal for both the economy and biomedical sciences. Sperm cryopreservation is one of the most efficient ways to preserve rabbit strains because it is easy to collect ejaculate repeatedly from a single male and inseminate artificially into multiple [...] Read more.
The rabbit is a valuable animal for both the economy and biomedical sciences. Sperm cryopreservation is one of the most efficient ways to preserve rabbit strains because it is easy to collect ejaculate repeatedly from a single male and inseminate artificially into multiple females. During the cooling, freezing and thawing process of sperms, the plasma membrane, cytoplasm and genome structures could be damaged by osmotic stress, cold shock, intracellular ice crystal formation, and excessive production of reactive oxygen species. In this review, we will discuss the progress made during the past years regarding efforts to minimize the cell damage in rabbit sperms, including freezing extender, cryoprotectants, supplements, and procedures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and New Strategies on Rabbit Breeding)
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Review
Current Knowledge on the Multifactorial Regulation of Corpora Lutea Lifespan: The Rabbit Model
Animals 2021, 11(2), 296; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020296 - 25 Jan 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 835
Abstract
Our research group studied the biological regulatory mechanisms of the corpora lutea (CL), paying particular attention to the pseudopregnant rabbit model, which has the advantage that the relative luteal age following ovulation is induced by the gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH). CL are temporary endocrine [...] Read more.
Our research group studied the biological regulatory mechanisms of the corpora lutea (CL), paying particular attention to the pseudopregnant rabbit model, which has the advantage that the relative luteal age following ovulation is induced by the gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH). CL are temporary endocrine structures that secrete progesterone, which is essential for maintaining a healthy pregnancy. It is now clear that, besides the classical regulatory mechanism exerted by prostaglandin E2 (luteotropic) and prostaglandin F2 (luteolytic), a considerable number of other effectors assist in the regulation of CL. The aim of this paper is to summarize our current knowledge of the multifactorial mechanisms regulating CL lifespan in rabbits. Given the essential role of CL in reproductive success, a deeper understanding of the regulatory mechanisms will provide us with valuable insights on various reproductive issues that hinder fertility in this and other mammalian species, allowing to overcome the challenges for new and more efficient breeding strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and New Strategies on Rabbit Breeding)
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