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Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1998 Dec 1;23(23):2477-85.

Intragenic polymorphisms of the vitamin D receptor gene associated with intervertebral disc degeneration.

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  • 1University of Alberta, Canada.



A study in genetic epidemiology of disc degeneration, based on lifetime exposure data, findings on magnetic resonance imaging, and genotyping of intragenic markers.


To pursue the potential correlation between common allelic variations in the vitamin D receptor locus and degeneration of the intervertebral disc.


Familial aggregation has been observed in intervertebral disc degeneration, but the relative significance of the genetic component and shared environmental influences is unknown. The identification of relevant candidate genes associated with disc degeneration would specify a genetic component and increase our understanding of the etiopathogenesis of disc degeneration.


From the population-based Finnish Twin cohort, 85 pairs of male monozygotic twins were selected based on exposure to suspected risk factors for disc degeneration. Interview data were gathered on relevant lifetime exposures, and thoracic and lumbar disc degeneration was determined through quantitative and qualitative assessments of signal intensity on magnetic resonance imaging, and qualitative assessments of disc bulging and disc height narrowing. Possible associations were examined between disc degeneration measures and two polymorphisms of the coding region of the vitamin D receptor locus.


Two intragenic polymorphisms of the vitamin D receptor gene revealed an association with disc degeneration. Quantitatively assessed signal intensities of thoracic and lumbar (T6-S1) discs were 12.9% worse in men with the Taql tt genotype and 4.5% worse in men with the Tt genotype, compared with signal intensity in men with the TT genotype (age adjusted P = 0.003). A similar pattern was found between disc signal intensity and Fokl genotypes; men with the ff and Ff genotypes had mean signal intensities that were 9.3% and 4.3% lower, respectively, than those in men with FF genotypes (age-adjusted P = 0.006). The summary scores of qualitatively assessed signal intensity, bulging, and disc height were 4.0% and 6.9% worse in men with Ff and ff genotypes, respectively, when compared with those in men with the FF genotype (age-adjusted P = 0.029).


Specific vitamin D receptor alleles were associated with intervertebral disc degeneration as measured by T2-weighted signal intensity, demonstrating for the first time, the existence of genetic susceptibility to this progressive, age-related degenerative process.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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