Genetic Variation in Bone Growth Patterns Defines Adult Mouse Bone Fragility


  • The authors have no conflict of interest.


Femoral morphology and composition were determined for three inbred mouse strains between ages E18.5 and 1 year. Genotype-specific variation in postnatal, pubertal, and postpubertal growth patterns and mineral accrual explained differences in adult bone trait combinations and thus bone fragility.

Introduction: Fracture risk is strongly regulated by genetic factors. However, this regulation is generally considered complex and polygenic. Therefore, the development of effective genetic-based diagnostic and treatment tools hinges on understanding how multiple genes and multiple cell types interact to create mechanically functional structures. The goal of this study was to connect variability in whole bone mechanical function, including measures of fragility, to variability in the biological processes underlying skeletal development. We accomplished this by testing for variation in bone morphology and composition among three inbred mouse strains from E18.5 to 1 year of age.

Materials and Methods: Mid-diaphyseal cross-sectional areas, diameters, moments of inertia, and ash content were determined for three strains of mice with widely differing adult whole bone femoral mechanical properties (A/J, C57BL/6J, and C3H/HeJ) at E18.5 and postnatal days 1, 7, 14, 28, 56, 112, 182, and 365 (n = 5–15 mice/strain/age).

Results: Significant differences in the magnitude and rate of change in morphological and compositional bone traits were observed among the three strains at each phase of growth, including prenatal, postnatal, pubertal, and adult ages. These genotype-specific variations in growth patterns mathematically determined how variation in adult bone trait combinations and mechanical properties arose. Furthermore, six bone traits were identified that characterize phenotypic variability in femoral growth. These include (1) bone size and shape at postnatal day 1, (2) periosteal and (3) endosteal expansion during early growth, (4) periosteal expansion and (5) endosteal contraction in later growth, and (6) ash content. These results show that genetic variability in adult bone traits arises from variation in biological processes at each phase of growth.

Conclusions: Inbred mice achieve different combinations of adult bone traits through genotype-specific regulation of bone surface activity, growth patterns, and whole bone mineral accrual throughout femoral development. This study provides a systematic approach, which can be applied to the human skeleton, to uncover genetic control mechanisms influencing bone fragility.