Sexual dimorphism in various bone phenotypes, including bone mineral density (BMD), is widely observed; however the extent to which genes explain these sex differences is unclear. To identify variants with different effects by sex, we examined gene-by-sex autosomal interactions genome-wide, and performed eQTL analysis and bioinformatics network analysis.
We conducted an autosomal genome-wide meta-analysis of gene-by-sex interaction on lumbar spine (LS-) and femoral neck (FN-) BMD, in 25,353 individuals from eight cohorts. In a second stage, we followed up the 12 top SNPs (P<1×10−5) in an additional set of 24,763 individuals. Gene-by-sex interaction and sex-specific effects were examined in these 12 SNPs.
We detected one novel genome-wide significant interaction associated with LS-BMD at the Chr3p26.1-p25.1 locus, near the GRM7 gene (male effect = 0.02 & p-value = 3.0×10−5; female effect = −0.007 & p-value=3.3×10−2) and eleven suggestive loci associated with either FN- or LS-BMD in discovery cohorts. However, there was no evidence for genome-wide significant (P<5×10−8) gene-by-sex interaction in the joint analysis of discovery and replication cohorts.
Despite the large collaborative effort, no genome-wide significant evidence for gene-by-sex interaction was found influencing BMD variation in this screen of autosomal markers. If they exist, gene-by-sex interactions for BMD probably have weak effects, accounting for less than 0.08% of the variation in these traits per implicated SNP.