• heritability;
  • bone strength;
  • muscle;
  • aging;
  • osteoporosis


The purpose of this study was to estimate to what extent muscle cross-sectional area of the lower leg (mCSA) and tibial structural strength are influenced by common and trait-specific genetic and environmental factors. pQCT scans were obtained from both members of 102 monozygotic (MZ) and 113 dizygotic (DZ) 63- to 76-yr-old female twin pairs to estimate the mCSA of the lower leg, structural bending strength of the tibial shaft (BSIbend), and compressive strength of the distal tibia (BSIcomp). Quantitative genetic models were used to decompose the phenotypic variances into common and trait-specific additive genetic (A), shared environmental (C), and individual environmental (E) effects. The age-adjusted trivariate independent pathway model showed that the total relative contributions of A, C, and E were, respectively, 75%, 0%, and 25% for mCSA, 55%, 20%, and 25% for BSIbend, and 40%, 37%, and 23% for BSIcomp. In addition, the model showed that all three traits shared genetic and individual environmental factors. BSIbend and BSIcomp had common shared environmental factors and were also influenced by trait-specific genetic factors. In conclusion, the association between muscle cross-sectional area and structural bone strength has its origins in both genetic and environmental effects in older women. These results suggest that in older women the same genetic and environmental factors may predispose to or, conversely, protect from both sarcopenia and bone fragility.