Kappa-casein (CSN3) plays an important role in stabilising the Ca-sensitive caseins in the micelle. The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) CSN3 has previously been shown to possess two alleles (A and B), which differ deeply in their intronic regions (indels of 100 and 1550 nucleotides in introns 1 and 4, respectively). Furthermore, a correlation between several reproductive performance traits and the different alleles was described. However, all these data were exclusively collected in rabbit domestic breeds, preventing a deeper understanding of the extensive polymorphism observed in the CSN3 gene. Additionally, the techniques available for the typing of both indel polymorphisms were until now not suitable for large-scale studies. In this report, we describe a simple, PCR-based typing method to distinguish rabbit CSN3 alleles. We analyse both ancient wild rabbit populations from the Iberian Peninsula and France, and the more recently derived English wild rabbits and domestic stocks. A new allele (C) showing another major indel (250 bp) in intron 1 was found, but exclusively detected in Iberian wild rabbits. In addition, our survey revealed the occurrence of new haplotypes in wild populations, suggesting that intragenic recombination is important in creating genetic diversity at this locus. This easy and low cost single-step PCR-based method results in an improvement over previous described techniques, can be easily set up in a routine molecular laboratory and would probably be a valuable tool in the management of rabbit domestic breeds.
Keywords: European rabbit, CSN3 gene, indel polymorphism, intragenic recombination, linkage disequilibrium