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1.  Nicotinic α5 receptor subunit mRNA expression is associated with distant 5′ upstream polymorphisms 
CHRNA5, encoding the nicotinic α5 subunit, is implicated in multiple disorders, including nicotine addiction and lung cancer. Previous studies demonstrate significant associations between promoter polymorphisms and CHRNA5 mRNA expression, but the responsible sequence variants remain uncertain. To search for cis-regulatory variants, we measured allele-specific mRNA expression of CHRNA5 in human prefrontal cortex autopsy tissues and scanned the CHRNA5 locus for regulatory variants. A cluster of six frequent single-nucleotide polymorphisms (rs1979905, rs1979906, rs1979907, rs880395, rs905740, and rs7164030), in complete linkage disequilibrium (LD), fully account for a >2.5-fold allelic expression difference and a fourfold increase in overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression. This proposed enhancer region resides more than 13 kilobases upstream of the CHRNA5 transcription start site. The same upstream variants failed to affect CHRNA5 mRNA expression in peripheral blood lymphocytes, indicating tissue-specific gene regulation. Other promoter polymorphisms were also correlated with overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression in the brain, but were inconsistent with allelic mRNA expression ratios, a robust and proximate measure of cis-regulatory variants. The enhancer region and the nonsynonymous polymorphism rs16969968 generate three main haplotypes that alter the risk of developing nicotine dependence. Ethnic differences in LD across the CHRNA5 locus require consideration of upstream enhancer variants when testing clinical associations.
doi:10.1038/ejhg.2010.120
PMCID: PMC2995013  PMID: 20700147
nicotinic receptor; α5 subunit; gene expression; nicotine dependence; lung cancer; enhancer
2.  In Vitro and Ex Vivo Analysis of CHRNA3 and CHRNA5 Haplotype Expression 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23373.
Genome-wide association studies implicate variations in CHRNA5 and CHRNA3 as being associated with nicotine addiction (NA). Multiple common haplotypes (“risk”, “mixed” and “protective”) exist in Europeans; however, high linkage disequilibrium between variations in CHRNA5 and CHRNA3 makes assigning causative allele(s) for NA difficult through genotyping experiments alone. We investigated whether CHRNA5 or CHRNA3 promoter haplotypes, associated previously with NA, might influence allelic expression levels. For in vitro analyses, promoter haplotypes were sub-cloned into a luciferase reporter vector. When assessed in BE(2)-C cells, luciferase expression was equivalent among CHRNA3 haplotypes, but the combination of deletion at rs3841324 and variation at rs503464 decreased CHRNA5 promoter-derived luciferase activity, possibly due to loss of an SP-1 and other site(s). Variation within the CHRNA5 5’UTR at rs55853698 and rs55781567 also altered luciferase expression in BE(2)-C cells. Allelic expression imbalance (AEI) from the “risk” or “protective” haplotypes was assessed in post-mortem brain tissue from individuals heterozygous at coding polymorphisms in CHRNA3 (rs1051730) or CHRNA5 (rs16969968). In most cases, equivalent allelic expression was observed; however, one individual showed CHRNA5 AEI that favored the “protective” allele and that was concordant with heterozygosity at polymorphisms ∼13.5 kb upstream of the CHRNA5 transcription start site. Putative enhancer activity from these distal promoter elements was assessed using heterologous promoter constructs. We observed no differences in promoter activity from the two distal promoter haplotypes examined, but found that the distal promoter region strongly repressed transcription. We conclude that CHRNA5 promoter variants may affect relative risk for NA in some heterozygous individuals.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023373
PMCID: PMC3155531  PMID: 21858091
3.  Cis-Regulatory Variants Affect CHRNA5 mRNA Expression in Populations of African and European Ancestry 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80204.
Variants within the gene cluster encoding α3, α5, and β4 nicotinic receptor subunits are major risk factors for substance dependence. The strongest impact on risk is associated with variation in the CHRNA5 gene, where at least two mechanisms are at work: amino acid variation and altered mRNA expression levels. The risk allele of the non-synonymous variant (rs16969968; D398N) primarily occurs on the haplotype containing the low mRNA expression allele. In populations of European ancestry, there are approximately 50 highly correlated variants in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster and the adjacent PSMA4 gene region that are associated with CHRNA5 mRNA levels. It is not clear which of these variants contribute to the changes in CHRNA5 transcript level. Because populations of African ancestry have reduced linkage disequilibrium among variants spanning this gene cluster, eQTL mapping in subjects of African ancestry could potentially aid in defining the functional variants that affect CHRNA5 mRNA levels. We performed quantitative allele specific gene expression using frontal cortices derived from 49 subjects of African ancestry and 111 subjects of European ancestry. This method measures allele-specific transcript levels in the same individual, which eliminates other biological variation that occurs when comparing expression levels between different samples. This analysis confirmed that substance dependence associated variants have a direct cis-regulatory effect on CHRNA5 transcript levels in human frontal cortices of African and European ancestry and identified 10 highly correlated variants, located in a 9 kb region, that are potential functional variants modifying CHRNA5 mRNA expression levels.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080204
PMCID: PMC3841173  PMID: 24303001
4.  Risk for nicotine dependence and lung cancer is conferred by mRNA expression levels and amino acid change in CHRNA5 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(16):3125-3135.
Nicotine dependence risk and lung cancer risk are associated with variants in a region of chromosome 15 encompassing genes encoding the nicotinic receptor subunits CHRNA5, CHRNA3 and CHRNB4. To identify potential biological mechanisms that underlie this risk, we tested for cis-acting eQTLs for CHRNA5, CHRNA3 and CHRNB4 in human brain. Using gene expression and disease association studies, we provide evidence that both nicotine-dependence risk and lung cancer risk are influenced by functional variation in CHRNA5. We demonstrated that the risk allele of rs16969968 primarily occurs on the low mRNA expression allele of CHRNA5. The non-risk allele at rs16969968 occurs on both high and low expression alleles tagged by rs588765 within CHRNA5. When the non-risk allele occurs on the background of low mRNA expression of CHRNA5, the risk for nicotine dependence and lung cancer is significantly lower compared to those with the higher mRNA expression. Together, these variants identify three levels of risk associated with CHRNA5. We conclude that there are at least two distinct mechanisms conferring risk for nicotine dependence and lung cancer: altered receptor function caused by a D398N amino acid variant in CHRNA5 (rs16969968) and variability in CHRNA5 mRNA expression.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddp231
PMCID: PMC2714722  PMID: 19443489
5.  Multiple Independent Loci at Chromosome 15q25.1 Affect Smoking Quantity: a Meta-Analysis and Comparison with Lung Cancer and COPD 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(8):e1001053.
Recently, genetic association findings for nicotine dependence, smoking behavior, and smoking-related diseases converged to implicate the chromosome 15q25.1 region, which includes the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 cholinergic nicotinic receptor subunit genes. In particular, association with the nonsynonymous CHRNA5 SNP rs16969968 and correlates has been replicated in several independent studies. Extensive genotyping of this region has suggested additional statistically distinct signals for nicotine dependence, tagged by rs578776 and rs588765. One goal of the Consortium for the Genetic Analysis of Smoking Phenotypes (CGASP) is to elucidate the associations among these markers and dichotomous smoking quantity (heavy versus light smoking), lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We performed a meta-analysis across 34 datasets of European-ancestry subjects, including 38,617 smokers who were assessed for cigarettes-per-day, 7,700 lung cancer cases and 5,914 lung-cancer-free controls (all smokers), and 2,614 COPD cases and 3,568 COPD-free controls (all smokers). We demonstrate statistically independent associations of rs16969968 and rs588765 with smoking (mutually adjusted p-values<10−35 and <10−8 respectively). Because the risk alleles at these loci are negatively correlated, their association with smoking is stronger in the joint model than when each SNP is analyzed alone. Rs578776 also demonstrates association with smoking after adjustment for rs16969968 (p<10−6). In models adjusting for cigarettes-per-day, we confirm the association between rs16969968 and lung cancer (p<10−20) and observe a nominally significant association with COPD (p = 0.01); the other loci are not significantly associated with either lung cancer or COPD after adjusting for rs16969968. This study provides strong evidence that multiple statistically distinct loci in this region affect smoking behavior. This study is also the first report of association between rs588765 (and correlates) and smoking that achieves genome-wide significance; these SNPs have previously been associated with mRNA levels of CHRNA5 in brain and lung tissue.
Author Summary
Nicotine binds to cholinergic nicotinic receptors, which are composed of a variety of subunits. Genetic studies for smoking behavior and smoking-related diseases have implicated a genomic region that encodes the alpha5, alpha3, and beta4 subunits. We examined genetic data across this region for over 38,000 smokers, a subset of which had been assessed for lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. We demonstrate strong evidence that there are at least two statistically independent loci in this region that affect risk for heavy smoking. One of these loci represents a change in the protein structure of the alpha5 subunit. This work is also the first to report strong evidence of association between smoking and a group of genetic variants that are of biological interest because of their links to expression of the alpha5 cholinergic nicotinic receptor subunit gene. These advances in understanding the genetic influences on smoking behavior are important because of the profound public health burdens caused by smoking and nicotine addiction.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001053
PMCID: PMC2916847  PMID: 20700436
6.  Association and interaction analysis of variants in CHRNA5/CHRNA3/CHRNB4 gene cluster with nicotine dependence in African and European Americans 
Several previous genome-wide and targeted association studies revealed that variants in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 (CHRNA5/A3/B4) gene cluster on chromosome 15 that encode the α5, α3 and β4 subunits of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChRs) are associated with nicotine dependence (ND) in European Americans (EAs) or others of European origin. Considering the distinct linkage disequilibrium patterns in European and other ethnic populations such as African Americans (AAs), it would be interesting to determine whether such associations exist in other ethnic populations. We performed a comprehensive association and interaction analysis of the CHRNA5/A3/B4 cluster in two ethnic samples to investigate the role of variants in the risk for ND, which was assessed by Smoking Quantity, Heaviness Smoking Index, and Fagerström test for ND. Using a family-based association test, we found a nominal association of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs1317286 and rs8040868 in CHRNA3 with ND in the AA and combined AA and EA samples. Furthermore, we found that several haplotypes in CHRNA5 and CHRNA3 are nominally associated with ND in AA, EA, and pooled samples. However, none of these associations remained significant after correction for multiple testing. In addition, we performed interaction analysis of SNPs within the CHRNA5/A3/B4 cluster using the pedigree-based generalized multifactor dimensionality reduction method and found significant interactions within CHRNA3 and among the three subunit genes in the AA and pooled samples. Together, these results indicate that variants within CHRNA3 and among CHRNA5, CHRNA3, and CHRNB4 contribute significantly to the etiology of ND through gene-gene interactions, although the association of each subunit gene with ND is weak in both the AA and EA samples.
doi:10.1002/ajmg.b.31043
PMCID: PMC2924635  PMID: 19859904
Association analysis; CHRNA5; CHRNA3; CHRNB4; Interaction analysis; Nicotine dependence; Smoking
7.  The CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 nicotinic receptor subunit gene cluster affects risk for nicotine dependence in African-Americans and in European-Americans 
Cancer research  2009;69(17):6848-6856.
Genetic association studies have demonstrated the importance of variants in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 cholinergic nicotinic receptor subunit gene cluster on chromosome 15q24-25.1 in risk for nicotine dependence, smoking, and lung cancer in populations of European descent. We have now carried out a detailed study of this region using dense genotyping in both European- and African-Americans.
We genotyped 75 known single-nucleotide-polymorphisms (SNPs) and one sequencing-discovered SNP in an African-American (AA) sample (N = 710) and European-American (EA) sample (N = 2062). Cases were nicotine-dependent and controls were non-dependent smokers.
The non-synonymous CHRNA5 SNP rs16969968 is the most significant SNP associated with nicotine dependence in the full sample of 2772 subjects (p = 4.49×10−8, OR 1.42 (1.25–1.61)) as well as in AAs only (p = 0.015, OR = 2.04 (1.15–3.62)) and EAs only (p = 4.14×10−7, OR = 1.40 (1.23–1.59)). Other SNPs that have been shown to affect mRNA levels of CHRNA5 in EAs are associated with nicotine dependence in AAs but not in EAs. The CHRNA3 SNP rs578776, which has low correlation with rs16969968, is associated with nicotine dependence in EAs but not in AAs. Less common SNPs (frequency ≤ 5%) also are associated with nicotine dependence.
In summary, multiple variants in this gene cluster contribute to nicotine dependence risk, and some are also associated with functional effects on CHRNA5. The non-synonymous SNP rs16969968, a known risk variant in European-descent populations, is also significantly associated with risk in African-Americans. Additional SNPs contribute in distinct ways to risk in these two populations.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-0786
PMCID: PMC2874321  PMID: 19706762
genetic association; smoking; cholinergic nicotinic receptors; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors
8.  New associations of the genetic polymorphisms in nicotinic receptor genes with the risk of lung cancer 
Life sciences  2012;91(21-22):1103-1108.
Aims
Previous studies revealed association of lung cancer risk with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in chromosome 15q25 region containing CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunit gene cluster. The genetic variations in other lung nAChRs remained unknown. In this study, we perform case-control analysis of CHRNA9 and CHRNA3 genes using 340 non-small cell lung cancer cases and 435 controls.
Main methods
All exons, 3’UTR, intron 1 and parts of other introns surrounding exons 2–5 of CHRNA9 gene as well as exons 2, 3 of CHRNA3 gene and parts of surrounding intronic regions were sequenced. The study was controlled for gender, age and ethnicity related differences. Each SNP in analyzed groups was assessed by allele frequency, genotype distribution and haplotype analysis.
Key findings
The case-control analysis revealed that an increased risk is associated with two SNPs in CHRNA9, rs56159866 and rs6819385, and one in CHRNA3, rs8040868. The risk was reduced for three SNPs in CHRNA9, rs55998310, rs56291234, and newly discovered ss410759555, and also in carriers of the haplotype NP_060051.2 containing ancestral N442 variant of α9.
Significance
The nonsynonymous substitutions can produce receptors exhibiting unique ligand-binding and downstream signaling characteristics, synonymous as well all intronic SNPs may affect protein production at the transcriptional and/or translational levels, or just manifest association with cancer by genetic linkage to other alleles. Elucidation of the mechanisms by which individual genetic variations in α9 affect predisposition to lung cancer may lead to development of personalized approaches to cancer prevention and treatment as well as protection against tobacco consumption.
doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2011.12.023
PMCID: PMC3341501  PMID: 22280835
lung cancer; CHRNA3; CHRNA9; α3 and α9 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; single nucleotide polymorphisms
9.  Rare missense variants in CHRNB4 are associated with reduced risk of nicotine dependence 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;21(3):647-655.
Genome-wide association studies have identified common variation in the CHRNA5–CHRNA3–CHRNB4 and CHRNA6–CHRNB3 gene clusters that contribute to nicotine dependence. However, the role of rare variation in risk for nicotine dependence in these nicotinic receptor genes has not been studied. We undertook pooled sequencing of the coding regions and flanking sequence of the CHRNA5, CHRNA3, CHRNB4, CHRNA6 and CHRNB3 genes in African American and European American nicotine-dependent smokers and smokers without symptoms of dependence. Carrier status of individuals harboring rare missense variants at conserved sites in each of these genes was then compared in cases and controls to test for an association with nicotine dependence. Missense variants at conserved residues in CHRNB4 are associated with lower risk for nicotine dependence in African Americans and European Americans (AA P = 0.0025, odds-ratio (OR) = 0.31, 95% confidence-interval (CI) = 0.31–0.72; EA P = 0.023, OR = 0.69, 95% CI = 0.50–0.95). Furthermore, these individuals were found to smoke fewer cigarettes per day than non-carriers (AA P = 6.6 × 10−5, EA P = 0.021). Given the possibility of stochastic differences in rare allele frequencies between groups replication of this association is necessary to confirm these findings. The functional effects of the two CHRNB4 variants contributing most to this association (T375I and T91I) and a missense variant in CHRNA3 (R37H) in strong linkage disequilibrium with T91I were examined in vitro. The minor allele of each polymorphism increased cellular response to nicotine (T375I P = 0.01, T91I P = 0.02, R37H P = 0.003), but the largest effect on in vitro receptor activity was seen in the presence of both CHRNB4 T91I and CHRNA3 R37H (P = 2 × 10−6).
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddr498
PMCID: PMC3259016  PMID: 22042774
10.  CHRNA5-A3-B4 genetic variants alter nicotine intake and interact with tobacco use to influence body weight in Alaska-Native tobacco users 
Addiction (Abingdon, England)  2013;108(10):1818-1828.
Background and aims
Gene variants in CHRNA5-A3-B4, which encode for the α5, α3 and β4 nicotinic receptor subunits, are associated with altered smoking behaviors in European-Americans. Little is known about CHRNA5-A3-B4 and its association with smoking behaviors and weight in Alaska-Native people, which is a population with high prevalence but low levels of tobacco consumption, extensive smokeless tobacco use, and high rates of obesity. We investigated CHRNA5-A3-B4 haplotype structure and its association with nicotine intake and obesity in Alaska-Native people.
Design, Setting, Participants
A cross sectional study of 400 Alaska-Native individuals including 290 tobacco users.
Measurements
CHRNA5-A3-B4 genotype, body weight, and tobacco consumption biomarkers such as plasma cotinine and urinary total nicotine equivalents (TNE).
Findings
Alaska-Native people have a distinct CHRNA5-A3-B4 haplotype structure compared with European/African-Americans. In 290 Alaska-Native tobacco users, the ‘G’ allele of rs578776, which tagged a 30kb haplotype in CHRNA5-A3-B4, was prevalent (16%) and significantly associated with nicotine intake (20% higher plasma cotinine, P<0.001, 16% higher TNE, P=0.076), while rs16969968 was not associated with nicotine intake. Rs578776 acted in combination with CYP2A6, the main nicotine-metabolizing enzyme, to increase nicotine intake by 1.8 fold compared with the low risk group (P<0.001). Furthermore rs2869950, a single nucleotide polymorphism 5′ to CHRNB4, was significantly associated with increased body mass index (P<0.01) in the tobacco users even after controlling for differences in nicotine intake (P<0.01).
Conclusions
Genetic variants in CHRNA5-A3-B4 alter nicotine intake and body mass index in a population of Alaska-Native people, who have a distinct haplotype structure, smoking behaviors and prevalence of obesity.
doi:10.1111/add.12250
PMCID: PMC3775934  PMID: 23692359
Alaska-Native People; Smoking; CHRNA5-A3-B4; Obesity
11.  Chrna7 genotype is linked with alpha7 nicotinic receptor expression but not alpha7 RNA levels 
Brain research  2009;1263:1-9.
Abstract,1
Studies using the radio-labeled nicotinic receptor antagonist [125I]-α-bungarotoxin, which binds to α7 subunit containing nicotinic receptors, have demonstrated that mouse strains vary considerably in the number of α7-containing nicotinic receptors in brain. In addition, brain region specific differences in α-bungarotoxin binding between the mouse strains C3H/Ibg and DBA/2 have been linked to polymorphisms in Chrna7, the gene that encodes the α7 subunit. In the studies described here, we evaluated whether the relationship between Chrna7 genotype and individual differences in α–bungarotoxin binding levels in adult brain might be due to an effect of Chrna7 genotype on α7 RNA levels. Quantitative autoradiography of coronal brain slices from F2 mice derived from the parental strains C3H/Ibg and DBA/2 demonstrate that Chrna7 genotype is not linked toα7 RNA levels. In contrast, quantitative autoradiography confirmed the linkage of Chrna7 genotype with α-bungarotoxin binding levels in hippocampus, striatum, and more precisely defined areas within these brain regions where Chrna7 genotype is associated with the level of α-bungarotoxin binding. The fact that Chrna7 genotype is linked to individual differences in α-bungarotoxin binding, but not α7 RNA levels, suggests that the observed linkage between Chrna7 genotype and α-bungarotoxin levels may be due to genetic influences on the post-transcriptional regulation of α7 nicotinic receptor expression.
doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2009.01.026
PMCID: PMC2670961  PMID: 19368846
nicotinic receptor; genetics; mice; gene expression; post-transcriptional
12.  Genetic mapping of putative Chrna7 and Luzp2 neuronal transcriptional enhancers due to impact of a transgene-insertion and 6.8 Mb deletion in a mouse model of Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes 
BMC Genomics  2005;6:157.
Background
Prader-Willi and Angelman syndrome (PWS and AS) patients typically have an ~5 Mb deletion of human chromosome 15q11-q13, of opposite parental origin. A mouse model of PWS and AS has a transgenic insertion-deletion (TgPWS/TgAS) of chromosome 7B/C subsequent to paternal or maternal inheritance, respectively. In this study, we define the deletion endpoints and examine the impact on expression of flanking genes.
Results
Using molecular and cytological methods we demonstrate that 13 imprinted and 11 non-imprinted genes are included in the TgPWS/TgAS deletion. Normal expression levels were found in TgPWS brain for genes extending 9.1- or 5.6-Mb centromeric or telomeric of the deletion, respectively. Our molecular cytological studies map the proximal deletion breakpoint between the Luzp2 and Siglec-H loci, and we show that overall mRNA levels of Luzp2 in TgPWS and TgAS brain are significantly reduced by 17%. Intriguingly, 5' Chrna7 shows 1.7-fold decreased levels in TgPWS and TgAS brain whereas there is a ≥15-fold increase in expression in neonatal liver and spleen of these mouse models. By isolating a Chrna7-Tg fusion transcript from TgAS mice, we mapped the telomeric deletion breakpoint in Chrna7 intron 4.
Conclusion
Based on the extent of the deletion, TgPWS/TgAS mice are models for PWS/AS class I deletions. Other than for the first gene promoters immediately outside the deletion, since genes extending 5.6–9.1 Mb away from each end of the deletion show normal expression levels in TgPWS brain, this indicates that the transgene array does not induce silencing and there are no additional linked rearrangements. Using gene expression, non-coding conserved sequence (NCCS) and synteny data, we have genetically mapped a putative Luzp2 neuronal enhancer responsible for ~33% of allelic transcriptional activity. The Chrna7 results are explained by hypothesizing loss of an essential neuronal transcriptional enhancer required for ~80% of allelic Chrna7 promoter activity, while the Chrna7 promoter is upregulated in B lymphocytes by the transgene immunoglobulin enhancer. The mapping of a putative Chrna7 neuronal enhancer inside the deletion has significant implications for understanding the transcriptional regulation of this schizophrenia-susceptibility candidate gene.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-6-157
PMCID: PMC1322230  PMID: 16280085
13.  Association study of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor genes identifies a novel lung cancer susceptibility locus near CHRNA1 in African-Americans 
Oncotarget  2012;3(11):1428-1438.
Studies in European and East Asian populations have identified lung cancer susceptibility loci in nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) genes on chromosome 15q25.1 which also appear to influence smoking behaviors. We sought to determine if genetic variation in nAChR genes influences lung cancer susceptibly in African-Americans, and evaluated the association of these cancer susceptibility loci with smoking behavior. A total of 1308 African-Americans with lung cancer and 1241 African-American controls from three centers were genotyped for 378 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) spanning the sixteen human nAChR genes. Associations between SNPs and the risk of lung cancer were estimated using logistic regression, adjusted for relevant covariates. Seven SNPs in three nAChR genes were significantly associated with lung cancer at a strict Bonferroni-corrected level, including a novel association on chromosome 2 near the promoter of CHRNA1 (rs3755486: OR = 1.40, 95% CI = 1.18-1.67, P = 1.0 × 10−4). Association analysis of an additional 305 imputed SNPs on 2q31.1 supported this association. Publicly available expression data demonstrated that the rs3755486 risk allele correlates with increased CHRNA1 gene expression. Additional SNP associations were observed on 15q25.1 in genes previously associated with lung cancer, including a missense variant in CHRNA5 (rs16969968: OR = 1.60, 95% CI = 1.27-2.01, P = 5.9 × 10−5). Risk alleles on 15q25.1 also correlated with an increased number of cigarettes smoked per day among the controls. These findings identify a novel lung cancer risk locus on 2q31.1 which correlates with CHRNA1 expression and replicate previous associations on 15q25.1 in African-Americans.
PMCID: PMC3717803  PMID: 23232035
Lung cancer; nicotine dependence; African-Americans; genetic association; smoking
14.  Nicotinic Receptor Gene Variants Influence Susceptibility to Heavy Smoking 
Heavy smoking is a strong predictor of nicotine dependence, which is a major impediment to smoking cessation. Although both heavy smoking and nicotine dependence are highly heritable, previous attempts to identify genes influencing these phenotypes have been largely unsuccessful until very recently. We studied 1,452 heavy smokers (defined as smoking at least 30 cigarettes per day for at least 5 years) and 1,395 light smokers (defined as smoking <5 cigarettes per day for at least 1 year) to investigate the association of common variants in nicotinic receptor subunit genes with smoking behavior. Compared to the most common allele, two separate groups of SNPs in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster were associated with heavy smoking with a very high statistical significance. One group of eight SNPs, that included a nonsynonymous SNP in the CHRNA5 gene, was in strong linkage disequilibrium and associated with increased risk of heavy smoking. A second group of SNPs not strongly correlated with the first was associated with decreased risk of heavy smoking. Analyses that combined both groups of SNPs found associations with heavy smoking that varied by more than two-fold. Our findings identify two loci in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster that predict smoking behavior and provide strong evidence for the involvement of the α5 nicotinic receptor in heavy smoking.
doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-0585
PMCID: PMC2614129  PMID: 19029397
15.  CHRNA5 as negative regulator of nicotine signaling in normal and cancer bronchial cells: effects on motility, migration and p63 expression 
Carcinogenesis  2011;32(9):1388-1395.
Genome-wide association studies have linked lung cancer risk with a region of chromosome 15q25.1 containing CHRNA3, CHRNA5 and CHRNB4 encoding α3, α5 and β4 subunits of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR), respectively. One of the strongest associations was observed for a non-silent single-nucleotide polymorphism at codon 398 in CHRNA5. Here, we have used pharmacological (antagonists) or genetic (RNA interference) interventions to modulate the activity of CHRNA5 in non-transformed bronchial cells and in lung cancer cell lines. In both cell types, silencing CHRNA5 or inhibiting receptors containing nAChR α5 with α-conotoxin MII exerted a nicotine-like effect, with increased motility and invasiveness in vitro and increasing calcium influx. The effects on motility were enhanced by addition of nicotine but blocked by inhibiting CHRNA7, which encodes the homopentameric receptor α7 subunit. Silencing CHRNA5 also decreased the expression of cell adhesion molecules P120 and ZO-1 in lung cancer cells as well as the expression of DeltaNp63α in squamous cell carcinoma cell lines. These results demonstrate a role for CHRNA5 in modulating adhesion and motility in bronchial cells, as well as in regulating p63, a potential oncogene in squamous cell carcinoma.
doi:10.1093/carcin/bgr090
PMCID: PMC3165122  PMID: 21586512
16.  The CHRNA3 rs578776 Variant is Associated with an Intrinsic Reward Sensitivity Deficit in Smokers 
A compromised brain reward system has been postulated as a key feature of drug dependence. We examined whether several polymorphisms of genes found to regulate nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) and dopamine expression were related to an intrinsic reward sensitivity (IRS) deficit we previously identified among a subgroup of smokers using event-related potentials (ERPs). We examined genetic polymorphisms within the CHRNA5-A3-B4 gene cluster (CHRNA3 rs578776, CHRNA5 rs16969968, LOC123688 rs8034191, and CHRNA3 rs1051730), the ANKK1 gene (rs1800497), and the D2 dopamine receptor gene (DRD2 rs1079597, DRD2 rs1799732) from 104 smokers of European ancestry in a smoking cessation trial. Prior to treatment, we recorded ERPs evoked by emotional (both pleasant and unpleasant), neutral, and cigarette-related pictures. Smokers were assigned to two groups (IRS+/IRS−) based on the amplitude of the late positive potential (LPP) component to the pictures, a neural marker of motivational salience. Smokers (n = 42) with blunted brain responses to intrinsically rewarding (pleasant) pictures and enhanced responses to cigarette pictures were assigned to the IRS− group, while smokers (n = 62) with the opposite pattern of LPP responding were assigned to the IRS+ group. Carriers of the protective minor T allele (T/T, C/T) of the CHRNA3 rs578776 were less likely to be members of the IRS− group than those homozygous for the at-risk C allele (C/C). The CHRNA3 rs578776 polymorphism did not differ on questionnaires of nicotine dependence, depressed mood, or trait affective disposition and did not predict abstinence at 6 months after the quit date. These results suggest that polymorphisms of genes influencing nAChR expression are related to an endophenotype of reward sensitivity in smokers.
doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00114
PMCID: PMC3779859  PMID: 24065931
nAChR; DRD2; nicotine; reward sensitivity; ERP; LPP; smoking cessation; genetics
17.  Role of a Genetic Variant on the 15q25.1 Lung Cancer Susceptibility Locus in Smoking-Associated Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109036.
Background
The 15q25.1 lung cancer susceptibility locus, containing CHRNA5, could modify lung cancer susceptibility and multiple smoking related phenotypes. However, no studies have investigated the association between CHRNA5 rs3841324, which has been proven to have the highest association with CHRNA5 mRNA expression, and the risk of other smoking-associated cancers, except lung cancer. In the current study we examined the association between rs3841324 and susceptibility to smoking-associated nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC).
Methods
In this case-control study we genotyped the CHRNA5 rs3841324 polymorphism with 400 NPC cases and 491 healthy controls who were Han Chinese and frequency-matched by age (±5 years), gender, and alcohol consumption. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to calculate the odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI).
Results
We found that individuals with CHRNA5 rs3841324 combined variant genotypes (ins/del+del/del) had a >1.5-fold elevated risk for NPC than those with the ins/ins genotype (adjusted OR = 1.52; 95% CI, 1.16–2.00), especially among ever smokers (adjusted OR = 2.07; 95% CI, 1.23–3.48). The combined variant genotypes acted jointly with cigarette smoking to contribute to a 4.35-fold increased NPC risk (adjusted OR = 4.35; 95% CI, 2.57–7.38). There was a dose-response relationship between deletion alleles and NPC susceptibility (trend test, P = 0.011).
Conclusions
Our results suggest that genetic variants on the 15q25.1 lung cancer susceptibility locus may influence susceptibility to NPC, particularly for smoking-associated NPC. Such work may be helpful to facilitate an understanding of the etiology of smoking-associated cancers and improve prevention efforts.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0109036
PMCID: PMC4203692  PMID: 25329654
18.  An Exploratory Study on the CHRNA3-CHRNA5-CHRNB4 Cluster, Smoking, and Parkinson's Disease 
Neuro-Degenerative Diseases  2011;8(5):296-299.
Background
Smokers have a lower risk of Parkinson's disease (PD). Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have consistently linked several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the CHRNA3-CHRNA5-CHRNB4 cluster on chromosome 15.q25 to smoking behaviors and nicotine dependence. Investigations into these SNPs may help explain the nature and mechanisms of the smoking-PD relationship. Objective: To examine whether the genetic variations that were consistently associated with smoking or nicotine dependence in recent GWAS also predict the risk of PD.
Methods
This is a population-based case-control study of 788 physician-diagnosed PD patients and 911 controls, all non-Hispanic Whites. Seven SNPs were selected based on findings from recent GWAS on smoking and nicotine dependence, all from the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunits (CHRN) A3-A5-B4. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals were derived from logistic regression models under the assumption of logit-additive allelic effects.
Results
Four SNPs in linkage disequilibrium from the CHRNA3-CHRNA5-CHRNB4 cluster were associated with smoking duration (OR >1.3, p < 0.05). However, none of the SNPs from this cluster was associated with PD risk in the overall analysis or after stratifying on smoking status.
Conclusion
This preliminary analysis does not support a relationship between these smoking-related GWAS SNPs and PD.
doi:10.1159/000323190
PMCID: PMC3121544  PMID: 21228559
Parkinson's disease; Smoking; CHRNA3-CHRNA5-CHRNB4 cluster; Nicotine dependence
19.  A case-control study of a sex-specific association between a 15q25 variant and lung cancer risk 
Background
Genetic variants located at 15q25, including those in the cholinergic receptor nicotinic cluster (CHRNA5) have been implicated in both lung cancer risk and nicotine dependence in recent genome-wide association studies. Among these variants, a 22 base pair insertion/deletion, rs3841324 showed the strongest association with CHRNA5 mRNA expression levels. However the influence of rs3841324 on lung cancer risk has not been studied in depth.
Methods
We have therefore evaluated the association of rs3841324 genotypes with lung cancer risk in a case-control study of 624 Caucasian subjects with lung cancer and 766 age- and sex-matched cancer-free Caucasian controls. We also evaluated the joint effects of rs3841324 with single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs16969968 and rs8034191 in the 15q25 region that have been consistently implicated in lung cancer risk.
Results
We found that the homozygous genotype with both short alleles (SS) of rs3841324 was associated with a decreased lung cancer risk in female ever smokers relative to the homozygous wild-type (LL) and heterozygous (LS) genotypes combined in a recessive model (OR adjusted = 0.55, 95% CI = 0.31–0.89, P = 0.0168). There was no evidence for a sex difference in the association between this variant and cigarettes smoked per day (CPD). Diplotype analysis of rs3841324 with either rs16969968 or rs8034191 showed that these polymorphisms influenced the lung cancer risk independently.
Conclusions and impact
This study has shown a sex difference in the association between the 15q25 variant rs3841324 and lung cancers. Further research is warranted to elucidate the mechanisms underlying these observations.
doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-11-0749
PMCID: PMC3277830  PMID: 22028403
lung cancer; CHRNA5; Chromosome 15q25; rs3841324; sex-specific association
20.  Rare nonsynonymous variants in alpha-4 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor gene protect against nicotine dependence 
Biological psychiatry  2011;70(6):528-536.
Background
There are several studies reporting association of alpha-4 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (encoded by CHRNA4) with nicotine dependence (ND). A meta-analysis of genomewide linkage studies for ND implicated a single chromosomal region, which includes CHRNA4, as genomewide significant.
Methods
After establishing that common variants are unlikely to completely account for this linkage, we investigated the distribution of CHRNA4 rare variants by sequencing the coding exons and flanking intronic regions of CHRNA4 in 209 European American (EA) ND cases and 183 EA controls. Because most of the rare variants that we detected (and all nonsynonymous changes) were in exon 5, we sequenced exon 5 in an additional 1000 ND cases and 1000 non-ND comparison subjects, both of which included equal numbers of EAs and African Americans (AAs).
Results
Comparison subjects had a higher frequency of rare nonsynonymous variants in the exon 5 region (encoding the large intercellular loop of the α4 subunit) (Fisher’s exact test p=0.009; association test p=0.009, OR=0.43; weighted-sum method p=0.014), indicating a protective effect against ND. Considering data from the two stages combined and only nonsynonymous variants predicted to alter protein function, the association was stronger (Fisher’s exact test p=0.005; association test p=0.008, OR=0.29). SPECT imaging results were consistent with functionality.
Conclusions
CHRNA4 functional rare variants may reduce ND risk. This is the first demonstration that rare functional variants at a candidate locus protect against substance dependence, suggesting a novel mechanism of substance dependence heritability that is potentially of general importance.
doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.04.017
PMCID: PMC3199609  PMID: 21683344
Nicotine dependence; rare variants; nonsynonymous; CHRNA4; imaging genetics; deep sequencing
21.  Smokers with the CHRNA Lung Cancer-Associated Variants are Exposed to Higher Levels of Nicotine Equivalents and a Carcinogenic Tobacco-Specific Nitrosamine 
Cancer research  2008;68(22):9137-9140.
A locus at 15q24/15q25.1, which includes the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor A subunits 3 and 5 (CHRNA3, CHRNA5) genes, has recently been associated with lung cancer risk, self-reported number of cigarettes smoked per day and a nicotine-dependence scale. It is not clear whether the association with lung cancer is direct or mediated through differences in smoking behavior. We used urinary biomarkers to test whether two linked lung cancer risk variants in CHRNA3 (rs1051730) and CHRNA5 (rs16969968) are associated with intensity of smoking and exposure to a tobacco-specific carcinogenic nitrosamine per cigarette dose. We studied 819 smokers and found that carriers of these variants extract a greater amount of nicotine (p=0.003) and are exposed to a higher internal dose of NNK (p=0.03) per cigarette than non-carriers. Thus, smokers who carry the CHRNA3 and A5 variants are expected to be at increased risk for lung cancer, compared to smokers who do not carry these alleles even if they smoked the same number of cigarettes. Number of cigarettes per day, even if it could be accurately assessed, is not an adequate measure of smoking dose.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-2271
PMCID: PMC2587068  PMID: 19010884
22.  Cloning and Spatiotemporal Expression of Zebrafish Neuronal Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Alpha 6 and Alpha 4 Subunit RNAs 
Acetylcholine plays an important role in regulation of nervous system development and function. We are developing zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model system to study the role of specific neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subtypes in development and the effects of nicotine on the developing vertebrate nervous system. We previously characterized the expression of several zebrafish nAChR subunits. To further develop the zebrafish model, here we report a study on the molecular characterization of two additional nAChR subunit genes, designated chrna6 and chrna4. Both zebrafish nAChRs have a high degree of sequence identity to nAChRs expressed in a variety of mammalian species. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction was used to show that both nAChR subunit RNAs were expressed early in zebrafish development, with the chrna4 transcript present at 3 hours postfertilization (hpf) and the chrna6 RNA present at 10 hpf. In situ hybridization was used to localize chrna6 and chrna4 RNA expression in 24, 48, 72, and 96 hpf zebrafish. The chrna6 and chrna4 RNAs were each expressed in a unique pattern, which changed during development. At various ages, chrna6 was expressed in Rohon-Beard sensory neurons, trigeminal ganglion, retina, and the pineal gland. Most notably, chrna6 was expressed in catecholaminergic neurons in the midbrain, but was also present in noncatecholaminergic cells in both midbrain and hindbrain. The expression of chrna6 RNA in catecholaminergic cells supports the use of zebrafish as a valid model system to better understand the molecular basis of cholinergic regulation of dopaminergic signaling and the role of α6-containing nAChRs in Parkinson’s disease. The most notable chrna4 expression was in neural crest cells at 24 hpf and reticulospinal neurons in hindbrain at 48 hpf. chrna4 RNA exhibited a widespread and robust expression pattern in the midbrain in 72 hpf and 96 hpf zebrafish.
doi:10.1002/dvdy.21912
PMCID: PMC4267763  PMID: 19301390
cholinergic; RNA; development; RT-PCR; In situ hybridization; zebrafish
23.  Four SNPs in the CHRNA3/5 Alpha-Neuronal Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Subunit Locus Are Associated with COPD Risk Based on Meta-Analyses 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102324.
Background
Several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in an α-neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit (CHRNA3/5) were identified to be associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in a study based on a Norwegian population. However, results from subsequent studies have been controversial, particularly in studies recruiting Asians. In the present study, we conducted a comprehensive search and meta-analyses to identify susceptibility SNPs for COPD in the CHRNA3/5 locus.
Methods
A comprehensive literature search was conducted to find studies that have reported an association between SNPs in the CHRNA3/5 locus and COPD risk. Pooled odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for each SNP were calculated with the major allele or genotype as the reference group. The influence of individual studies on pooled measures was assessed, in addition to publication bias.
Results
A total of 12 articles with 14 eligible studies were included in this analysis. Association between 4 SNPs in the CHRNA3/5 locus and COPD was evaluated and included rs1051730, rs8034191, rs6495309, and rs16969968. Significant associations between the 4 SNPs and COPD were identified under allele (rs1051730: OR = 1.14, 95%CI = 1.10–1.18; rs8034191: OR = 1.29, 95%CI = 1.18–1.41; rs6495309: OR = 1.26, 95%CI = 1.09–1.45; rs16969968: OR = 1.27, 95%CI = 1.17–1.39) and genotype models. Subgroup analysis conducted for rs1051730 showed a significant association between this SNP and COPD risk in non-Asians (OR = 1.14, 95%CI = 1.10–1.18), but not Asians (OR = 1.23, 95%CI = 0.91–1.67). Rs1051730 and rs6495309 were also significantly associated with COPD after adjusting for multiple variables, including age and smoking status.
Conclusion
Our results indicate that 4 SNPs in the CHRNA3/5 locus are associated with COPD risk. Rs1051730 was particularly associated with COPD in non-Asians, but its role in Asians still needs to be verified. Additional studies will be necessary to assess the effect of rs6495309 on COPD. Although rs1051730 and rs6495309 were shown to be independent risk factors for COPD, validation studies should be performed.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102324
PMCID: PMC4106784  PMID: 25051068
24.  The α7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor and The Acute Stress Response: Maternal Genotype Determines Offspring Phenotype 
Physiology & behavior  2010;104(2):321-326.
α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (α7nAchRs) modulate immune activation by suppressing production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in peripheral immune cells. α7nAchRs also modulate inhibitory output in the hippocampus, which provides input to key circuits of the HPA axis. Therefore the α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor gene (CHRNA7) may be associated with cortisol stress response. Polymorphisms in the CHRNA7 promoter decrease its expression and may dampen the cholinergic response, leading to an increase in inflammation. Increased inflammation may change the intrauterine environment, altering neuroendocrine development in the offspring. Maternal CHRNA7 genotype could affect an offspring’s HPA regulation via reprogramming in utero. Patients with allergic disorders have a differential cortisol response to stress. This study utilized samples collected from a cohort of 198 adolescents in a previous study of atopic disorders, who demonstrated a disturbance in HPA response associated with atopy. Salivary cortisol samples collected from the adolescents after a series of laboratory procedures and DNA samples collected from the adolescents and their parents were used for further analysis. DNA samples were genotyped for allelic variation in the CHRNA7 promoter. Genetic association analyses with the cortisol levels were performed in the adolescents. Maternal genotype influences were investigated for the CHRNA7 gene. We also included maternal and child atopy diagnosis as covariates in determining cortisol levels and tested for association of CHRNA7 to atopy. Polymorphisms in the CHRNA7 promoter were associated with lower cortisol levels after a small laboratory stress. Our findings also show that although the child’s CHRNA7 genotype affects stress response, the maternal genotype has a stronger influence on cortisol release after stress in male offspring. These effects were independent of atopy status.
doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2010.11.007
PMCID: PMC3094732  PMID: 21073885
Stress; Cortisol; Genetics; Association Study; Adolescents
25.  Alpha-5 and -3 nicotinic receptor gene variants predict nicotine dependence but not cessation: Findings from the COMMIT cohort 
American Journal of Medical Genetics  2012;159B(2):227-235.
Smoking many cigarettes per day (CPD) and short interval to first cigarette (TTF) after waking are two of the most heritable smoking phenotypes and comprise the Heavy Smoking Index (HSI). These phenotypes are often used as proxies for nicotine dependence (ND) and are associated with smoking cessation outcomes. Case-control and genome-wide association studies have reported links between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the alpha-5 and -3 nicotinic receptor subunit (CHRNA5 and CHRNA3) genes and CPD but few have examined TTF or cessation outcomes. In this study we longitudinally assessed 1301 European-American smokers at four time-points from 1988 to 2005. One CHRNA5 (rs16969968) and two CHRNA3 (rs1051703, rs6495308) SNPs were examined for their ability to predict smokers who ‘ever’ reported ND based on three phenotypic classifications: 1) 25+ CPD, 2) TTF < 10 minutes, and 3) HSI ≥ 4. In a subsample of 1157 quit attempters, we also examined each SNP’s ability to predict ‘ever’ quitting for a period of >6 months. Demographically adjusted logistic regressions showed significant allelic and genotypic associations between all three SNPs and CPD but not TTF, HSI, or smoking cessation. Carriers of both the rs16969968-AA and rs6495308-TT genotypes had approximately two-fold greater odds for ND defined using CPD or TTF. Results suggest nicotinic receptor variants are associated with greater odds of ND according to CPD and to a lesser extent TTF. Research examining the effect of nicotinic receptor genetic variation on ND phenotypes beyond CPD is warranted.
doi:10.1002/ajmg.b.32019
PMCID: PMC3262775  PMID: 22223462
Cholinergic; Nicotinic; Allele; Dependence; Cessation

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