Osteoporosis is a bone disease characterized by low bone mineral density (BMD), a highly heritable and polygenic trait. Women are more prone than men to develop osteoporosis due to a lower peak bone mass and accelerated bone loss at menopause. Peak bone mass has been convincingly shown to be due to genetic factors with heritability up to 80%. Menopausal bone loss has been shown to have around 38% to 49% heritability depending on the site studied. To have more statistical power to detect small genetic effects we focused on premenopausal women. We studied 23 candidate genes, some involved in calcium and vitamin-D regulation and others because estrogens strongly induced their gene expression in mice where it was correlated with humerus trabecular bone density. High-density polymorphisms were selected to cover the entire gene variability and 231 polymorphisms were genotyped in a first sample of 709 premenopausal women. Positive associations were retested in a second, independent, sample of 673 premenopausal women. Ten polymorphisms remained associated with BMD in the combined samples and one was further associated in a large sample of postmenopausal women (1401 women). This associated polymorphism was located in the gene CSF3R (granulocyte colony stimulating factor receptor) that had never been associated with BMD before. The results reported in this study suggest a role for CSF3R in the determination of bone density in women.
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