Gender specificity in the genetic determinants of peak bone mass

Eric S. Orwoll, John Belknap, Robert F. Klein

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167 Scopus citations


Peak bone mass is a major determinant of osteoporotic fracture risk. Gender differences in peak bone mass acquisition are well recognized in humans and may account for a substantial share of the increased prevalence of fragility fractures in women compared with men. Skeletal development is regulated by both heritable and environmental factors. Experimental animal models provide a means to circumvent complicating environmental factors. In this study we examined the heritability of peak bone mineral density (BMD) in genetically distinct laboratory mouse strains raised under strict environmental control and sought to identify genetic loci that may contribute to gender differences in this skeletal phenotype. Peak whole body BMD of male and female mice from a panel of 18 recombinant inbred (RI) strains derived from a cross between C57BL/6 and DBA/2 progenitors (BXD) was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). A highly significant relationship existed between body weight and BMD in the BXD RI mice (r2 = 0.25; p = 1 × 10-43). To allow for comparison between male and female RI strains, whole body BMD values were corrected for the influence of body weight. The distribution of weight-corrected BMD (WC-BMD) values among the strains indicated the presence of strong genetic influences in both genders, with an estimated narrow sense heritability of 45% and 22% in male and female mice, respectively. Comparison of RI strain results by two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed a significant strain-by-gender interaction (F1,7,479 = 6.13; p < 0.0001). Quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis of the BXD RI strain series provisionally identified nine chromosomal sites linked to peak bone mass development in males and seven regions in females. In two cases, the provisional chromosomal loci were shared between genders, but in most cases they were distinct (five female-specific QTLs and six male-specific QTLs). QTL analysis of a genetically heterogeneous F2 population derived from the B6 and D2 progenitor strains provided additional support for the gender specificity of two loci. A significant phenotype-genotype correlation was only observed in male F2 mice at microsatellite marker D7Mit114 on chromosome 7, and a correlation at D2Mit94 on chromosome 2 was only observed in female F2 mice. The present data highlight the important role of gender in the genetic basis of peak bone mass in laboratory mice. Because the male phenotype is associated with considerable fracture risk reduction, an elucidation of the nature of that effect could provide the basis for novel diagnostic, preventative, or therapeutic approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1962-1971
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2001


  • Bone mineral density
  • Gender
  • Mouse
  • Osteoporosis
  • Quantitative trait

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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