Common variation in vitamin D pathway genes predicts circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D Levels among African Americans

PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e28623. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028623. Epub 2011 Dec 21.


Vitamin D is implicated in a wide range of health outcomes, and although environmental predictors of vitamin D levels are known, the genetic drivers of vitamin D status remain to be clarified. African Americans are a group at particularly high risk for vitamin D insufficiency but to date have been virtually absent from studies of genetic predictors of circulating vitamin D levels. Within the Southern Community Cohort Study, we investigated the association between 94 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in five vitamin D pathway genes (GC, VDR, CYP2R1, CYP24A1, CYP27B1) and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels among 379 African American and 379 Caucasian participants. We found statistically significant associations with three SNPs (rs2298849 and rs2282679 in the GC gene, and rs10877012 in the CYP27B1 gene), although only for African Americans. A genotype score, representing the number of risk alleles across the three SNPs, alone accounted for 4.6% of the variation in serum vitamin D among African Americans. A genotype score of 5 (vs. 1) was also associated with a 7.1 ng/mL reduction in serum 25(OH)D levels and a six-fold risk of vitamin D insufficiency (<20 ng/mL) (odds ratio 6.0, p = 0.01) among African Americans. With African ancestry determined from a panel of 276 ancestry informative SNPs, we found that high risk genotypes did not cluster among those with higher African ancestry. This study is one of the first to investigate common genetic variation in relation to vitamin D levels in African Americans, and the first to evaluate how vitamin D-associated genotypes vary in relation to African ancestry. These results suggest that further evaluation of genetic contributors to vitamin D status among African Americans may help provide insights regarding racial health disparities or enable the identification of subgroups especially in need of vitamin D-related interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American / genetics*
  • Complement System Proteins / genetics
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*
  • Steroid Hydroxylases / genetics
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D / metabolism


  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Vitamin D
  • Complement System Proteins
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D
  • Steroid Hydroxylases