Genetically Based Influences on the Site-Specific Regulation of Trabecular and Cortical Bone Morphology


  • The authors have no conflict of interest.


The degree of site-specificity by which genes influence bone quantity and architecture was investigated in the femur of three strains of mice. Morphological indices were highly dependent on both genetic makeup as well as anatomical location showing that the assessment of bone structure from a single site cannot be extrapolated to other sites even within a single bone.

Introduction: The identification of genes responsible for establishing peak BMD will yield critical information on the regulation of bone quantity and quality. Whereas such knowledge may eventually uncover novel molecular drug targets or enable the identification of individuals at risk of osteoporosis, the site-specificity by which putative genotypes cause low or high bone mass (and effective bone morphology) is essentially unknown.

Materials and Methods: μCT was used to determine morphological and microarchitectural features of the femora harvested from three genetically distinct strains of 4-month-old female mice, each with distinct skeletal mass (low: C57BL/6J [B6], medium: BALB/cByJ [BALB], high: C3H/HeJ [C3H]). Two trabecular regions (distal epiphysis and metaphysis) were considered in addition to four cortical regions within the metaphysis and diaphysis.

Results and Conclusions: Comparing morphological properties of the different trabecular and cortical femoral regions between the three strains of mice, it was apparent that high or low values of specific parameters of bone morphology could not be consistently attributed to the same genetic strain. Trabecular metaphyseal bone volume, for instance, was 385% larger in C3H mice than in B6 mice, yet the two strains displayed similar bone volume fractions in the epiphysis. Similarly, BALB mice had 48% more trabecular bone than C3H mice in the epiphysis, but there were no strain-specific differences in cortical bone area at the diaphysis. These data suggest that the genetic control of bone mass and morphology, even within a given bone, is highly site-specific and that a comprehensive search for genes that are indicative of bone quantity and quality may also have to occur on a very site-specific basis.