Whole Genome Sequencing Unravels New Genetic Determinants of Early-Onset Familial Osteoporosis and Low BMD in Malta

Genes (Basel). 2022 Jan 23;13(2):204. doi: 10.3390/genes13020204.


Background: Osteoporosis is a skeletal disease with a strong genetic background. The study aimed to identify the genetic determinants of early-onset familial osteoporosis and low bone mineral density (BMD) in a two-generation Maltese family.

Methods: Fifteen relatives aged between 28-74 years were recruited. Whole genome sequencing was conducted on 12 relatives and shortlisted variants were genotyped in the Malta Osteoporotic Fracture Study (MOFS) for replication.

Results: Sequential variant filtering following a dominant inheritance pattern identified rare missense variants within SELP, TGF-β2 and ADAMTS20, all of which were predicted to be likely pathogenic and participate in osteoimmunology. TGF-β2 c.1136C>T was identified in five individuals from the MOFS in heterozygosity, four of whom had osteopenia/osteoporosis at the lumbar spine and hip, and/or had sustained a low-trauma fracture. Heterozygosity for the ADAMTS20 c.4090A>T was accompanied by lower total hip BMD (p = 0.018) and lower total serum calcium levels in MOFS (p < 0.01), recapitulating the findings from the family. Women carrying at least one copy of the alternative allele (TC/CC) for SELP c.2177T>C exhibited a tendency for lower lumbar spine BMD and/or wrist fracture history relative to women with TT genotype.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the identified variants, alone or in combination, could be causal factors of familial osteoporosis and low BMD, requiring replication in larger collections.

Keywords: ADAMTS20; BMD; SELP; TGF-β2; familial osteoporosis; whole genome sequencing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bone Density / genetics
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Malta
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis* / genetics
  • Osteoporosis* / pathology
  • Osteoporotic Fractures*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta2 / genetics
  • Whole Genome Sequencing


  • Transforming Growth Factor beta2