OPLL (ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament of the spine) is a common form of human myelopathy with a prevalence of as much as 4% in a variety of ethnic groups. To clarify the genetic factors that predispose to OPLL, we have studied ttw (tiptoe walking), a mouse model that presents ectopic ossification of the spinal ligaments similar to OPLL and have found that the ttw phenotype is caused by the nonsense mutation of the gene encoding nucleotide pyrophosphatase (NPPS), a membrane-bound glycoprotein thought to produce inorganic pyrophosphate, a major inhibitor of calcification and mineralization. To investigate a possible role of NPPS in the etiology of OPLL, we have examined its genetic variations in OPLL patients. A total of 323 OPLL patients was screened by means of polymerase chain reaction/single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis covering all the exons and their surrounding introns, plus about 1.5-kb of the promoter region. We identified ten nucleotide variations in the NPPS gene; five of the alterations caused amino-acid substitutions, and two of them were found specifically in OPLL patients. Subsequently, we performed an association study using these variations and found a significant association of an allele, viz., a deletion of T at a position 11 nucleotides upstream from the splice acceptor site of intron 20 (IVS20-11delT), with OPLL; the proportion of the individuals having this deletion was significantly higher (P = 0.0029) in OPLL patients than in controls, indicating that those who have this variation may be more susceptible to the abnormal ossification of the spinal ligaments. Thus, our study suggests that NPPS plays an important role in the etiology of human OPLL.