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The sodium channel gene family is specifically expressed in Hen uterus and associated with eggshell quality traits
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Background Eggshell quality is important for the poultry industry. During eggshell formation a mass of inorganic minerals is deposited. The Sodium Channel (SCNN1) gene family plays an essential role in cation transportation. The objective of this study was to investigate the pattern of expression of members of the SCNN1 gene family, their variation and their effects on eggshell quality. Result The highest expression of SCNN1a, SCNN1b, and SCNN1g genes were in the active uterus during eggshell mineralization, while SCNN1d showed its highest expression level in the quiescent uterus (no egg present). Nineteen candidate SNPs from the four genes were genotyped in a population of 338 White Leghorn layers. Association analysis between SNPs (haplotypes/diplotypes) and eggshell traits was performed. Among seven significant SNPs, five SNPs were associated with eggshell strength, eggshell thickness, eggshell percentage or/and egg weight, while the other two SNPs within SCNN1d were only associated with eggshell percentage. These SNPs had a 0.25-6.99% contribution to phenotypic variance, depending on the trait. In haplotype analysis, SCNN1b and SCNN1d were associated with egg weight. The SCNN1b and SCNN1g were significantly associated with eggshell weight while only SCNN1g explained 2.04% of phenotypic variance. All the alleles of the members of SCNN1 gene family were associated with eggshell percentage and eggshell thickness, and others members had an association with eggshell strength except for SCNN1a. The contribution of different haplotypes of the SCNN1 gene family to eggshell phenotypic variance ranged from 0.09% to 5.74%. Conclusions Our study indicated that the SCNN1 gene family showed tissue expression specificity and was significantly associated with eggshell traits in chicken. This study provides evidence that genetic variation in members of the sodium channel can influence eggshell quality.