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Identification of 153 new loci associated with heel bone mineral density and functional involvement of GPC6 in osteoporosis

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Kemp, JP 
Morris, JA 
Medina-Gomez, C 
Forgetta, V 
Warrington, NM 


Osteoporosis is a common disease diagnosed primarily by measurement of bone mineral density (BMD). We undertook a genome-wide association study in 142,487 individuals from the UK Biobank to identify loci associated with BMD estimated by quantitative ultrasound of the heel (“eBMD”). We identified 307 conditionally independent SNPs attaining genome-wide significance at 203 loci, explaining approximately 12% of the phenotypic variance. These included 153 novel loci, and several rare variants with large effect sizes. To investigate underlying mechanisms we undertook: 1) bioinformatic, functional genomic annotation and human osteoblast expression studies; 2) gene function prediction; 3) skeletal phenotyping of 120 knockout mice with deletions of genes adjacent to lead independent SNPs; and 4) analysis of gene expression in mouse osteoblasts, osteocytes and osteoclasts. These studies strongly implicate GPC6 as a novel determinant of BMD and also identify abnormal skeletal phenotypes in knockout mice for a further 100 prioritized genes.



genetics research, genome-wide association studies, rheumatic diseases

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Nature Genetics

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Springer Nature
British Heart Foundation (None)
Medical Research Council (MR/L003120/1)
British Heart Foundation (None)
TCC (None)
This part of the work was supported by Genome Quebec, Genome Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). This work was supported by the Medical Research Council (Programme Grant MC_UU_12013/4 to D.M.E.), the Wellcome Trust (Strategic Award grant number 101123; project grant 094134; to G.R.W., J.H.D.B. and P.I.C.), the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development ZonMw VIDI 016.136.367 (funding to F.R., C.M.-G. and K.T.), the mobility stimuli plan of the European Union Erasmus Mundus Action 2: ERAWEB (programme funding to K.T.), NIAMS, NIH (AR060981 and AR060234 to C.L.A.-B.), the National Health and Medical Research Council (Early Career Fellowship APP1104818 to N.M.W.), the Swedish Research Council (funding to E.G.), the Réseau de Médecine Génétique Appliquée (RMGA; J.A.M.), the Fonds de Recherche du Québec–Santé (FRQS; J.A.M. and J.B.R.), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (C.M.T.G.), the J. Gibson and the Ernest Heine Family Foundation (P.I.C.), Arthritis Research UK (ref. 20000; to C.L.G.), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (J.B.R.), the Jewish General Hospital (J.B.R.), and the Australian Research Council (Future Fellowship FT130101709 to D.M.E.). This research was conducted using the UK Biobank Resource (application number 12703). Access to the UK Biobank study data was funded by the University of Queensland (Early Career Researcher Grant 2014002959 to N.M.W.).