Genetic factors play an important role in the pathogenesis of osteoporosis, and recent studies have shown that a polymorphic Sp1 binding site in collagen type I alpha1 (COLIA1) gene is associated with bone mass and vertebral fractures in women from the U.K. Information on the predictive value of the COLIA1 Sp1 polymorphism in other populations is limited, however, and no studies have yet been performed in osteoporotic males. In view of this, we analyzed COLIA1 genotypes in relation to bone density and biochemical markers of bone turnover and the presence of osteoporotic fractures in a case-control study of Danish men and women. COLIA1 genotype was determined by polymerase chain reaction analysis of genomic DNA extracted from peripheral blood samples and related to bone mass, biochemical markers of bone turnover, and the presence of fracture in a study of 375 osteoporotic vertebral fracture patients and normal controls. There was no significant effect of COLIA1 genotype on bone mass or biochemical markers when data from the control group (n = 195) and fracture group (n = 180) were analyzed separately. However, the genotype distribution was significantly different in the fracture cases compared with age-matched controls (chi2 = 16.48, n = 249,p = 0.0003) due mainly to over-representation of the ss genotype in the fracture patients (14.3% vs. 1.4%), equivalent to an odds ratio for vertebral fracture of 11.83 (95% confidence interval 2.64-52.97) in those with the ss genotype. Similar differences in genotype distribution between osteoporotic patients and controls were observed in both men (chi2 = 11.52, n = 95, p = 0.0032, OR = 2.04) and women (chi2 = 6.90, n = 154, p = 0.032, OR = 1.37). In keeping with the above, logistic regression analysis showed that the ss genotype was an independent predictor of osteoporotic fracture (p = 0.028). This study confirms that the COLIA1 Sp1 polymorphism is significantly associated with osteoporotic vertebral fractures. The association is seen in both men and women, and the effect on fracture risk appears to be partly independent of bone mineral density. Our results raise the possibility that genotyping at the Sp1 site could be of clinical value in identifying individuals at risk of osteoporotic fractures in both genders.