Significant differences in vertebral (9%) and femoral (50%) adult bone mineral density (BMD) between the C57BL/6J (B6) and C3H/HeJ (C3H) inbred strains of mice have been subjected to genetic analyses for quantitative trait loci (QTL). Nine hundred eighty-six B6C3F2 females were analyzed to gain insight into the number of genes that regulate peak BMD and their locations. Femurs and lumbar vertebrae were isolated from 4-month-old B6C3F2 females at skeletal maturity and then BMD was determined by peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT). Estimates of BMD heritability were 83% for femurs and 72% for vertebrae. Genomic DNA from F2 progeny was screened for 107 polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based markers discriminating B6 and C3H alleles on all 19 autosomes. The regression analyses of markers on BMD revealed ten chromosomes (1, 2, 4, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, and 18) carrying QTLs for femurs and seven chromosomes (1, 4, 7, 9, 11, 14, and 18) carrying QTLs for vertebrae, each with log10 of the odds ratio (LOD) scores of 2.8 or better. The QTLs on chromosomes (Chrs) 2, 6, 12, 13, and 16 were unique to femurs, whereas the QTLs on Chrs 7 and 9 were unique to vertebrae. When the two bone sites had a QTL on the same chromosome, the same marker had the highest, although different, LOD score. A pairwise comparison by analysis of variance (ANOVA) did not reveal significant gene x gene interactions between QTLs for either bone site. BMD variance accounted for by individual QTLs ranged from 1% to 10%. Collectively, the BMD QTLs for femurs accounted for 35.1% and for vertebrae accounted for 23.7 % of the F2 population variances in these bones. When mice were homozygous c3/c3 in the QTL region, 8 of the 10 QTLs increased, while the remaining two QTLs on Chrs 6 and 12 decreased, femoral BMD. Similarly, when mice were homozygous c3/c3 in the QTL region for the vertebrae, five of the seven QTLs increased, while two QTLs on Chrs 7 and 9 decreased, BMD. These findings show the genetic complexity of BMD with multiple genes participating in its regulation. Although 5 of the 12 QTLs are considered to be skeleton-wide loci and commonly affect both femurs and vertebrae, each of the bone sites also exhibited unique QTLs. Thus, the BMD phenotype can be partitioned into its genetic components and the effects of these loci on normal bone biology can be determined. Importantly, the BMD QTLs that we have identified are in regions of the mouse genome that have known human homology, and the QTLs will become useful experimental tools for mechanistic and therapeutic analyses of bone regulatory genes.