Osteoporosis is a major public health problem. It is mainly characterized by low bone mineral density (BMD) and/or low-trauma osteoporotic fractures (OF), both of which have strong genetic determination. The specific genes influencing these phenotypic traits, however, are largely unknown. Using the Affymetrix 500K array set, we performed a case-control genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 700 elderly Chinese Han subjects (350 with hip OF and 350 healthy matched controls). A follow-up replication study was conducted to validate our major GWAS findings in an independent Chinese sample containing 390 cases with hip OF and 516 controls. We found that a SNP, rs13182402 within the ALDH7A1 gene on chromosome 5q31, was strongly associated with OF with evidence combined GWAS and replication studies (P = 2.08×10−9, odds ratio = 2.25). In order to explore the target risk factors and potential mechanism underlying hip OF risk, we further examined this candidate SNP's relevance to hip BMD both in Chinese and Caucasian populations involving 9,962 additional subjects. This SNP was confirmed as consistently associated with hip BMD even across ethnic boundaries, in both Chinese and Caucasians (combined P = 6.39×10−6), further attesting to its potential effect on osteoporosis. ALDH7A1 degrades and detoxifies acetaldehyde, which inhibits osteoblast proliferation and results in decreased bone formation. Our findings may provide new insights into the pathogenesis of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a major health concern worldwide. It is a highly heritable disease characterized mainly by low bone mineral density (BMD) and/or osteoporotic fractures. However, the specific genetic variants determining risk for low BMD or OF are largely unknown. Here, taking advantage of recent technological advances in human genetics, we performed a genome-wide association study and follow-up validation studies to identify genetic variants for osteoporosis. By examining a total of 11,568 individuals from Chinese and Caucasian populations, we discovered a susceptibility gene, ALDH7A1, which is associated with hip osteoporotic fracture and BMD. ALDH7A1 might inhibit osteoblast proliferation and decrease bone formation. Our finding opens a new avenue for exploring the pathophysiology of osteoporosis.