Copy number polymorphism in the α-globin gene cluster of European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

R. Campos, J. F. Storz, N. Ferrand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Comparative genomic studies have revealed that mammals typically possess two or more tandemly duplicated copies of the α-globin (HBA) gene. The domestic rabbit represents an exception to this general rule, as this species was found to possess a single HBA gene. Previous electrophoretic surveys of HBA polymorphism in natural populations of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) revealed extensive geographic variation in the frequencies of three main electromorphs. The variation in frequency of two electromorphs is mainly partitioned between two distinct subspecies of European rabbit, and a third is restricted to the hybrid zone between the two rabbit subspecies in Iberia. Here we report the results of a survey of nucleotide polymorphism, which revealed HBA copy number polymorphism in Iberian populations of the European rabbit. By characterizing patterns of HBA polymorphism in populations from the native range of the European rabbit, we were able to identify the specific amino-acid substitutions that distinguish the previously characterized electromorphs. Within the hybrid zone, we observed the existence of a second HBA gene duplicate, named HBA2, that mostly represents a novel sequence haplotype, which occurs in higher frequency within the hybrid zone, and thus appears to have arisen in hybrids of the two distinct subspecies. Although this novel gene is also present in other wild Iberian populations, it is almost absent from French populations, which suggest a recent ancestry, associated with the establishment of the post-Pleistocene contact zone between the two European rabbit subspecies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-536
Number of pages6
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • European rabbit
  • copy number polymorphism
  • gene duplication
  • haemoglobin
  • hybridization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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