We examined femora from adult AXB/BXA recombinant inbred (RI) mouse strains to identify skeletal traits that are functionally related and to determine how functional interactions among these traits contribute to genetic variability in whole-bone stiffness, strength, and toughness. Randomization of A/J and C57BL/6J genomic regions resulted in each adult male and female RI strain building mechanically functional femora by assembling unique sets of morphologic and tissue-quality traits. A correlation analysis was conducted using the mean trait values for each RI strain. A third of the 66 correlations examined were significant, indicating that many bone traits covaried or were functionally related. Path analysis revealed important functional interactions among bone slenderness, cortical thickness, and tissue mineral density. The path coefficients describing these functional relations were similar for both sexes. The causal relationship among these three traits suggested that cellular processes during growth simultaneously regulate bone slenderness, cortical thickness, and tissue mineral density so that the combination of traits is sufficiently stiff and strong to satisfy daily loading demands. A disadvantage of these functional interactions was that increases in tissue mineral density also deleteriously affected tissue ductility. Consequently, slender bones with high mineral density may be stiff and strong but they are also brittle. Thus, genetically randomized mouse strains revealed a basic biological paradigm that allows for flexibility in building bones that are functional for daily activities but that creates preferred sets of traits under extreme loading conditions. Genetic or environmental perturbations that alter these functional interactions during growth would be expected to lead to loss of function and suboptimal adult bone quality.
Jepsen, K. J., Hu, B., Tommasini, S. M., Courtland, H., Price, C., Terranova, C. J. & Nadeau, J. H. (2007). Genetic randomization reveals functional relationships among morphologic and tissue-quality traits that contribute to bone strength and fragility. , 18(6-7), 492-507. doi:10.1007/s00335-007-9017-5.