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J Bone Miner Res. 2004 Sep;19(9):1497-505. Epub 2004 May 10.

Quantitative trait loci that modulate femoral mechanical properties in a genetically heterogeneous mouse population.

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Orthopaedic Research Laboratories, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


The goal of this study was to investigate genetic effects on mechanical properties of the mouse femur. We found evidence for QTL on eight chromosomes that affect mechanical traits. Some of these QTL may have primary effects on body weight or femoral geometry, and others seem to affect bone quality directly.


Previous studies have shown a dependence of fragility-related fracture risk on genetic background. Although many of these studies investigated the effect of genetics on BMD, basic measures of bone geometry and mechanical integrity may provide a more comprehensive characterization of the genetic effects on bone fragility. The purpose of this study was to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) that affect mechanical and material properties of cortical bone in a genetically heterogeneous mouse population.


A total of 486 female UM-HET3 mice was used for this study. UM-HET3 mice are produced as the offspring of (BALB/cJ x C57BL/6J) F(1) females and (C3H/HeJ x DBA/2J) F(1) males. Femurs from 18-month-old mice were tested to failure in four-point bending to assess mechanical properties of cortical bone; these properties were compared with genotype data from 185 biallelic loci. A permutation-based test was used to detect significant associations between genetic markers and mechanical traits. This test generates p values that account for the effect of testing multiple hypotheses. Throughout the experiment, p < or = 0.05 was considered statistically significant. Analysis of covariance was used to examine possible effects of body weight and femoral geometry.


We found evidence for genes on maternal chromosomes 11 and 13 and paternal chromosomes 2, 4, 7, 10, 11, and 17 that affect mechanical and material properties of femoral bone. The total variance explained by genetic effects on each mechanical trait ranges from 2.9% to 15.4%. Most of the identified polymorphisms influence mechanical traits even after adjustment for body weight. Adjustment for femoral geometry reduces the effects of some of the QTL, but those on chromosomes 2 and 10 do not seem to be influenced by femoral geometry.


Many genes and chromosomes are involved in the genetic control over mechanical integrity of cortical bone. QTL on paternal chromosomes 4 and 11 may mediate mechanical properties, at least in part, by modulation of femoral geometry. Other QTL identified here may directly affect bone tissue quality.

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