Genome-wide pleiotropy of osteoporosis-related phenotypes: the Framingham Study

J Bone Miner Res. 2010 Jul;25(7):1555-63. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.38.


Genome-wide association studies offer an unbiased approach to identify new candidate genes for osteoporosis. We examined the Affymetrix 500K + 50K SNP GeneChip marker sets for associations with multiple osteoporosis-related traits at various skeletal sites, including bone mineral density (BMD, hip and spine), heel ultrasound, and hip geometric indices in the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. We evaluated 433,510 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 2073 women (mean age 65 years), members of two-generational families. Variance components analysis was performed to estimate phenotypic, genetic, and environmental correlations (rho(P), rho(G), and rho(E)) among bone traits. Linear mixed-effects models were used to test associations between SNPs and multivariable-adjusted trait values. We evaluated the proportion of SNPs associated with pairs of the traits at a nominal significance threshold alpha = 0.01. We found substantial correlation between the proportion of associated SNPs and the rho(P) and rho(G) (r = 0.91 and 0.84, respectively) but much lower with rho(E) (r = 0.38). Thus, for example, hip and spine BMD had 6.8% associated SNPs in common, corresponding to rho(P) = 0.55 and rho(G) = 0.66 between them. Fewer SNPs were associated with both BMD and any of the hip geometric traits (eg, femoral neck and shaft width, section moduli, neck shaft angle, and neck length); rho(G) between BMD and geometric traits ranged from -0.24 to +0.40. In conclusion, we examined relationships between osteoporosis-related traits based on genome-wide associations. Most of the similarity between the quantitative bone phenotypes may be attributed to pleiotropic effects of genes. This knowledge may prove helpful in defining the best phenotypes to be used in genetic studies of osteoporosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bone Density / genetics*
  • Female
  • Femur Neck / anatomy & histology
  • Genome, Human
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Hip / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis / genetics*
  • Phenotype*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide