Common polymorphisms in the vitamin D receptor (VDR) gene have been shown to correlate with bone mineral density (BMD). However, attempts to replicate the original findings in other populations have yielded variable results. These disparities may reflect ethnic or environmental differences in the expression of the VDR effect upon BMD. We examined a relatively ethnically homogeneous group of 103 healthy postmenopausal Caucasian women of Mexican descent living in Northern California. We determined the VDR genotype and measured the BMD at the lumbar spine and femoral neck by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, as well as several biochemical indices of mineral metabolism. The prevalence of the BB genotype, associated in previous studies with the lowest BMD, was 8% and highly linked to the tt genotype. Absolute and age-adjusted BMD at both hip and spine showed a trend toward lower BMD in the BB, AA, and tt genotypes, but this trend did not achieve statistical significance. There were no consistent intergroup differences in change in BMD over 2 years of follow-up, nor in mean serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, osteocalcin, or total urinary pyridinolines. Intact parathyroid hormone concentrations were significantly higher in subjects with the AA genotype, with a trend toward higher values in those with the BB and tt genotypes as well. Our data suggest that there may be a decrease in BMD associated with the B, A, and t alleles, but the intergroup difference in BMD is 0.2-0.5 standard deviations (SD) at the lumbar spine and 0.3 SD at the femoral neck, decreases that are smaller than previously reported. Given the relatively low prevalence of the BB/tt genotype in Mexican-American Caucasians, a larger sample would be required to detect a significant association between VDR alleles and differences in BMD of the magnitude suggested by our data. We conclude that a genotype effect of this magnitude, if present, would be clinically relevant, but the impact on BMD is too small to detect with statistical significance in a study of this size.