Background: Bone mass is under strong genetic control, and recent studies in adults have suggested that allelic differences in the gene for the vitamin D receptor may account for inherited variability in bone mass. We studied the relations of the vitamin D-receptor genotype to skeletal development and variation in the size, volume, and density of bone in children.
Methods: We identified three allelic variants of the vitamin D-receptor gene using the polymerase chain reaction and three restriction enzymes (ApaI, BsmI, and TaqI) in 100 normal prepubertal American girls of Mexican descent. We then determined the relations of the different vitamin D-receptor genotypes (AA, Aa, aa, BB, Bb, bb, TT, Tt, and tt) to the cross-sectional area, cortical area, and cortical bone density of the femoral shaft and the cross-sectional area and density of the lumbar vertebrae.
Results: The vitamin D-receptor genotype was associated with femoral and vertebral bone density. Girls with aa and bb genotypes had 2 to 3 percent higher femoral bone density (P=0.008 and P=0.04, respectively) and 8 to 10 percent higher vertebral bone density (P=0.01 and P=0.03, respectively) than girls with AA and BB genotypes. There was no association between the cross-sectional area of the vertebrae or the cross-sectional or cortical area of the femur and the vitamin D-receptor genotype. The chronologic age, bone age, height, weight, body-surface area, and body-mass index did not differ significantly among girls with different vitamin D-receptor genotypes.
Conclusions: Vitamin D-receptor gene alleles predict the density of femoral and vertebral bone in prepubertal American girls of Mexican descent.