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J Med Genet. 2019 Feb 26. pii: jmedgenet-2018-105726. doi: 10.1136/jmedgenet-2018-105726. [Epub ahead of print]

Genome-wide meta-analysis identifies genetic locus on chromosome 9 associated with Modic changes.

Author information

Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, School of Life Course Sciences, King's College London, London, UK.
Center for Life Course Health Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland.
Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland.
Medical Research Center Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland.
Computational Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu and Biocenter Oulu, Oulu, Finland.
National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland.
Research Unit of Medical Imaging, Physics and Technology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland.
Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Oulu, Finland.
Northern Finland Birth Cohorts, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland.
Contributed equally



Low back pain (LBP) is a common disabling condition. Lumbar disc degeneration (LDD) may be a contributing factor for LBP. Modic change (MC), a distinct phenotype of LDD, is presented as a pathological bone marrow signal change adjacent to vertebral endplate on MRI. It is strongly associated with LBP and has heritability around 30%. Our objective was to identify genetic loci associated with MC using a genome-wide meta-analysis.


Presence of MC was evaluated in lumbar MRI in the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 (n=1182) and TwinsUK (n=647). Genome-wide association analyses were carried out using linear regression model. Inverse-variance weighting approach was used in the meta-analysis.


A locus associated with MC (p<5e-8) was found on chromosome 9 with the lead SNP rs1934268 in an intron of the PTPRD gene. It is located in the binding region of BCL11A, SPI1 and PBX3 transcription factors. The SNP was nominally associated with LBP in TwinsUK (p=0.001) but not associated in the UK Biobank (p=0.914). Suggestive signals (p<1e-5) were identified near XKR4, SCIN, MGMT, DLG2, ZNF184 and OPRK1.


PTPRD is a novel candidate gene for MC that may act via the development of cartilage or nervous system; further work is needed to define the mechanisms underlying the pathways leading to development of MC. This is the first genome-wide meta-analysis of MC, and the results pave the way for further studies on the genetic factors underlying the various features of spine degeneration and LBP.


GWAS; Modic change; disc degeneration; genetics; meta-analysis

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