Genetics of fat tissue accumulation in pigs: a comparative approach
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Fatnness traits are important in pig production since they influence meat quality and fattening efficiency. On the other hand, excessive fat accumulation in humans has become a serious health problem due to worldwide spread of obesity. Since the pig is also considered as an animal model for numerous human diseases, including obesity and metabolic syndrome, comparative genomic studies may bring new insights into genetics of fatness/obesity. Input of genetic factors into phenotypic variability of these traits is rather high and the heritability coefficient (h2) of these traits oscillates around 0.5. Genome scanning revealed the presence of more than 500 QTLs for fatness in the pig genome. In addition to QTL studies, many candidate gene polymorphisms have been analyzed in terms of their associations with pig fatness, including genes encoding leptin (LEP) and its receptor (LEPR), insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF-2), fatty acid-binding proteins (FABP3 and FABP4), melanocortin receptor type 4 (MC4R), and the FTO (fat mass and obesity-associated) gene. Among them, a confirmed effect on pig fatness was found for a well-known polymorphism of the IGF-2 gene. In humans the strongest association with predisposition to obesity was shown for polymorphism of the FTO gene, while in pigs such an association seems to be doubtful. The development of functional genomics has revealed a large number of genes whose expression is associated with fat accumulation and lipid metabolism, so far not studied extensively in terms of the association of their polymorphism with pig fatness. Recently, epigenomic mechanisms, mainly RNA interference, have been considered as a potential source of information on genetic input into the fat accumulation process. The rather limited progress in studies focused on the identification of gene polymorphism related with fatness traits shows that their genetic background is highly complex.
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M. Switonski, Department of Genetics and Animal Breeding, Poznan University of Life Sciences, Wolynska 33, 60?637 Poznan, Poland