Evidence for pleiotropic factors in genetics of the musculoskeletal system

David Karasik, Douglas P. Kiel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


There are both theoretical and empirical underpinnings that provide evidence that the musculoskeletal system develops, functions, and ages as a whole. Thus, the risk of osteoporotic fracture can be viewed as a function of loading conditions and the ability of the bone to withstand the load. Both bone loss (osteoporosis) and muscle wasting (sarcopenia) are the two sides of the same coin, an involution of the musculoskeletal system.Skeletal loads are dominated by muscle action; both bone and muscle share environmental, endocrine and paracrine influences. Muscle also has an endocrine function by producing bioactive molecules, which can contribute to homeostatic regulation of both bone and muscle. It also becomes clear that bone and muscle share genetic determinants; therefore the consideration of pleiotropy is an important aspect in the study of the genetics of osteoporosis and sarcopenia.The aim of this review is to provide an additional evidence for existence of the tight genetic co-regulation of muscles and bones, starting early in development and still evident in aging. Recently, important papers were published, including those dealing with the cellular mechanisms and anatomic substrate of bone mechanosensitivity. Further evidence has emerged suggesting that the relationship between skeletal muscle and bone parameters extends beyond the general paradigm of bone responses to mechanical loading.We provide insights into several pathways and single genes, which apparently have a biologically plausible pleiotropic effect on both bones and muscles; the list is continuing to grow. Understanding the crosstalk between muscles and bones will translate into a conceptual framework aimed at studying the pleiotropic genetic relationships in the etiology of complex musculoskeletal disease. We believe that further progress in understanding the common genetic etiology of osteoporosis and sarcopenia will provide valuable insight into important biological underpinnings for both musculoskeletal conditions. This may translate into new approaches to reduce the burden of both conditions, which are prevalent in the elderly population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1226-1237
Number of pages12
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Gene-environment interaction
  • Genetic polymorphisms
  • Heritability
  • Osteoporosis
  • Pleiotropy
  • Sarcopenia


Dive into the research topics of 'Evidence for pleiotropic factors in genetics of the musculoskeletal system'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this