Introduction Low lean mass (LM) is a risk factor for chronic disease, a major cause of disability and diminished quality of life, and is a heritable trait. However, relatively few specific genetic factors have been identified as potentially influencing this trait. Methods In this study, we selected 1493 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) in 155 candidate genes involved in anabolic, catabolic, growth hormone, and other related pathways and examined their association with LM, assessed by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, in a sample of 2760 non-Hispanic and Hispanic white postmenopausal women from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study. We assessed the replication of our top findings in a meta-Analysis of 20 genome-wide association studies (n = 38,292) conducted by the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology Consortium Musculoskeletal Working Group. Results We identified 32 SNPs that had nominally significant associations with LM in the WHI cohort. In the replication stage, we find that SNP rs2276541 in the activin A receptor, type IIB (ACVR2B), was significantly associated with LM (β = 0.15, P = 2.17 × 10-5). ACVR2B codes for a receptor for a negative regulator of skeletal muscle, myostatin, and has previously been identified in a candidate gene study as a determinant of skeletal muscle mass. Conclusions Our findings support a previously proposed role of ACVR2B allelic variation as a determinant of muscle mass and extend prior findings in men and women. Additional large-scale studies will be needed to confirm our findings in different populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1270-1275
Number of pages6
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • SNP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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