Heritability of lumbar trabecular bone mechanical properties in baboons

L. M. Havill, M. R. Allen, T. L. Bredbenner, D. B. Burr, D. P. Nicolella, C. H. Turner, D. M. Warren, M. C. Mahaney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Genetic effects on mechanical properties have been demonstrated in rodents, but not confirmed in primates. Our aim was to quantify the proportion of variation in vertebral trabecular bone mechanical properties that is due to the effects of genes. L3 vertebrae were collected from 110 females and 46 male baboons (6-32 years old) from a single extended pedigree. Cranio-caudally oriented trabecular bone cores were scanned with microCT then tested in monotonic compression to determine apparent ultimate stress, modulus, and toughness. Age and sex effects and heritability (h2) were assessed using maximum likelihood-based variance components methods. Additive effects of genes on residual trait variance were significant for ultimate stress (h2=0.58), toughness (h2=0.64), and BV/TV (h2=0.55). When BV/TV was accounted for, the residual variance in ultimate stress accounted for by the additive effects of genes was no longer significant. Toughness, however, showed evidence of a non-BV/TV-related genetic effect. Overall, maximum stress and modulus show strong genetic effects that are nearly entirely due to bone volume. Toughness shows strong genetic effects related to bone volume and shows additional genetic effects (accounting for 10% of the total trait variance) that are independent of bone volume. These results support continued use of bone volume as a focal trait to identify genes related to skeletal fragility, but also show that other focal traits related to toughness and variation in the organic component of bone matrix will enhance our ability to find additional genes that are particularly relevant to fatigue-related fractures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)835-840
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Bone strength
  • Mechanical properties
  • Nonhuman primate
  • Skeletal genetics
  • Spine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Histology


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