Osteopenia and osteoporosis are common human conditions considered to result from the interplay of multiple genetic and environmental factors. Twin and family studies have yielded strong correlations between levels of bone mass and a number of genetic factors. The genes involved could regulate metabolism, formation and resorption of bone, all processes that determine bone mass. We tested 192 sibling pairs of adult Japanese women from 136 families for genetic linkage between osteopenia and allelic variants of four candidate genes (interleukin-6, interleukin-6 receptor, calcium-sensing receptor, and matrix gla protein) using qualitative and quantitative methods, and using as genetic markers dinucleotide-repeat polymorphisms present in or near each of those loci. The interleukin-6 locus showed evidence of linkage to osteopenia analyzed as a qualitative trait, with mean allele sharing of 0.40 (P = 0.0001) in discordant pairs and 0.55 (P = 0.04) in concordant affected pairs. Variation at this locus was also linked to decreased bone mineral density measured as a quantitative trait (P = 0.02). Analyses limited only to the post-menopausal women showed similar or even stronger results. No other locus among those tested showed any evidence of linkage by either method. The results provided strong evidence that genetic variation at the interleukin-6 locus affects regulation of bone mineral metabolism and confers risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis in adult women.
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