Evidence for a major gene for bone mineral density/content in human pedigrees identified via probands with extreme bone mineral density

Ann Hum Genet. 2002 Jan;66(Pt 1):61-74. doi: 10.1017/S0003480001008958.


Bone mineral content (BMC) and/or bone mineral density (BMD, i.e. BMC scaled by bone size) are major determinants for osteoporosis, which is a serious health problem. The major determinant of variation in BMD/BMC is genetic. The few studies now available are inconsistent in the identification and/or even in the existence of major gene(s) for BMD/BMC. In 51 human pedigrees with 941 individuals (526 measured for phenotypes) identified via probands with extreme BMD values, we performed complex segregation analyses to test the existence of a genetic locus with a major effect on BMD/BMC variation. We analyzed BMD and BMC at the spine, hip and wrist jointly by employing, as the study phenotype, factor scores (FS) of the principle component that explains approximately 75% of the total BMD/BMC variation at the three sites. The results indicate that a major gene exists with a codominant effect that is responsible for approximately 16% of the FS variation when adjusted for significant effects of sex, body weight and age. A significant genotype-x-sex-x-age interaction was found, which may explain approximately 14% of the FS variation after adjusting for body weight. Testing of various models did not provide support for shared familial environmental effects but suggested the existence of residual polygenic effects, which may explain approximately 50% of the FS variation when adjusting for sex, body weight and age. This study indicates a promising aspect of studies to identify a major gene for BMD/BMC variation in our pedigrees identified via extreme probands.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bone Density / genetics*
  • Bone Density / physiology
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Osteoporosis / genetics
  • Pedigree