Our purpose is to assess whether genotypes of the vitamin D receptor (VDR) and estrogen receptor (ER) and their interaction influence changes in bone mass in postmenopausal Caucasian women with and without hormone replacement therapy (HRT). A population of 108 US Mid-West women who participated in a study of low-dose continuous estrogen/progestin was genotyped at the VDR BsmI site and the ER XbaI and PvuII sites. Adequate vitamin D and calcium nutritional intakes were assured in all the study subjects. For the 3.5-year duration of the study, we analyzed changes in bone mineral density (BMD) at the spine, femoral neck, distal radius, and the total body (total body bone mineral content, tbBMC). We adjusted for confounding factors, such as age and weight, in the analysis. We found that VDR and/or ER genotypes and/or their interaction generally had significant effects on the changes in the bone mass measurements in both the placebo and HRT groups. When a significant gene-by-gene interaction exists between VDR and ER genotypes, failure to account for them in analyses may yield nonsignificant results, even if significant genotypic effects exist. The amount of variation in changes in bone mass measurements explained by the total genotypic effects of the VDR and ER loci varies from ~ 1.0% (for the tbBMC changes in combined placebo and HRT groups) to ~ 18.7% (for the spine BMD changes in the HRT group). These results suggest that individual genotypes are important factors in determining changes in bone mass in the elderly with and without HRT and thus may need to be considered with respect to the treatment to preserve bone mass in elderly Caucasian women.
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