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1.  Functional Polymorphisms of CHRNA3 Predict Risks of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Lung Cancer in Chinese 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e46071.
Recently, several genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified many susceptible single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer which are two closely related diseases. Among those SNPs, some of them are shared by both the diseases, reflecting there is possible genetic similarity between the diseases. Here we tested the hypothesis that whether those shared SNPs are common predictor for risks or prognosis of COPD and lung cancer. Two SNPs (rs6495309 and rs1051730) located in nicotinic acetylcholine receptor alpha 3 (CHRNA3) gene were genotyped in 1511 patients with COPD, 1559 lung cancer cases and 1677 controls in southern and eastern Chinese populations. We found that the rs6495309CC and rs6495309CT/CC variant genotypes were associated with increased risks of COPD (OR = 1.32, 95% C.I. = 1.14–1.54) and lung cancer (OR = 1.57; 95% CI = 1.31–1.87), respectively. The rs6495309CC genotype contributed to more rapid decline of annual Forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) in both COPD cases and controls (P<0.05), and it was associated with advanced stages of COPD (P = 0.033); the rs6495309CT/CC genotypes conferred a poor survival for lung cancer (HR = 1.41, 95%CI = 1.13–1.75). The luciferase assays further showed that nicotine and other tobacco chemicals had diverse effects on the luciferase activity of the rs6495309C or T alleles. However, none of these effects were found for another SNP, rs1051730G>A. The data show a statistical association and suggest biological plausibility that the rs6495309T>C polymorphism contributed to increased risks and poor prognosis of both COPD and lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC3463594  PMID: 23056235
2.  Loci Identified by Genome-wide Association Studies Influence Different Disease-related Phenotypes in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Rationale: Genome-wide association studies have shown significant associations between variants near hedgehog interacting protein HHIP, FAM13A, and cholinergic nicotinic acetylcholine receptor CHRNA3/5 with increased risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in smokers; however, the disease mechanisms behind these associations are not well understood.
Objectives: To identify the association between replicated loci and COPD-related phenotypes in well-characterized patient populations.
Methods: The relationship between these three loci and COPD-related phenotypes was assessed in the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate End-point (ECLIPSE) cohort. The results were validated in the family-based International COPD Genetics Network (ICGN).
Measurements and Main Results: The CHRNA3/5 locus was significantly associated with pack-years of smoking (P = 0.002 and 3 × 10−4), emphysema assessed by a radiologist using high-resolution computed tomography (P = 2 × 10−4 and 4.8 × 10−5), and airflow obstruction (P = 0.004 and 1.8 × 10−5) in the ECLIPSE and ICGN populations, respectively. However, variants in the IREB2 gene were only significantly associated with FEV1. The HHIP locus was not associated with smoking intensity but was associated with FEV1/FVC (P = 1.9 × 10−4 and 0.004 in the ECLIPSE and ICGN populations). The HHIP locus was also associated with fat-free body mass (P = 0.007) and with both retrospectively (P = 0.015) and prospectively (P = 0.024) collected COPD exacerbations in the ECLIPSE cohort. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the FAM13A locus were associated with lung function.
Conclusions: The CHRNA3/5 locus was associated with increased smoking intensity and emphysema in individuals with COPD, whereas the HHIP and FAM13A loci were not associated with smoking intensity. The HHIP locus was associated with the systemic components of COPD and with the frequency of COPD exacerbations. FAM13A locus was associated with lung function.
PMCID: PMC3029936  PMID: 20656943
COPD exacerbations; nicotine addiction; high-resolution CT; genetic association analysis; emphysema
Cancer  2010;116(14):3458-3462.
Recent genome-wide association (GWA) studies of lung cancer have shown that the CHRNA5-A3 region on chromosome 15q24-25.1 is strongly associated with an increased risk of lung cancer and nicotine dependence, and thought to be associated with chronic obstructive airways disease as well. However, it has not been established whether the association between genetic variants and lung cancer risk is a direct one or one mediated by nicotine dependence.
In this paper we applied a rigorous statistical approach, mediation analysis, to examine the mediating effect of smoking behavior and self-reported physician-diagnosed emphysema (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD]) on the relationship between the CHRNA5-A3 region genetic variant rs1051730 and the risk of lung cancer.
Our results showed that rs1051730 is directly associated with lung cancer risk, but that it is also associated with lung cancer risk through its effect on both smoking behavior and COPD. Furthermore, we showed that COPD is a mediating phenotype that explains part of the effect of smoking behavior on lung cancer. Our results also suggested that smoking behavior is a mediator of the relationship between rs1051730 and COPD risk.
Smoking behavior and COPD are mediators of the association between the SNP rs1051730 and the risk of lung cancer. Also, COPD is a mediator of the association between smoking behavior and lung cancer. Finally, smoking behavior also has mediating effects on the association between the SNP and COPD.
PMCID: PMC3073819  PMID: 20564069
Lung Cancer; COPD; Mediation analysis; smoking behavior; genetic variants
4.  Variants in the 15q24/25 Locus Associate with Lung Function Decline in Active Smokers 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53219.
Genetic variation in nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit genes (nAChRs) is associated with lung function level and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is unknown whether these variants also predispose to an accelerated lung function decline. We investigated the association of nAChR susceptibility variants with lung function decline and COPD severity. The rs1051730 and rs8034191 variants were genotyped in a population-based cohort of 1,226 heavy smokers (COPACETIC) and in an independent cohort of 883 heavy smokers, of which 653 with COPD of varying severity (LEUVEN). Participants underwent pulmonary function tests at baseline. Lung function decline was assessed over a median follow-up of 3 years in COPACETIC. Current smokers homozygous for the rs1051730 A-allele or rs8034191 G-allele had significantly greater FEV1/FVC decline than homozygous carriers of wild-type alleles (3.3% and 4.3%, p = 0.026 and p = 0.009, respectively). In the LEUVEN cohort, rs1051730 AA-carriers and rs8034191 GG-carriers had a two-fold increased risk to suffer from COPD GOLD IV (OR 2.29, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.11–4.75; p = 0.025 and OR = 2.42, 95% [CI] = 1.18–4.95; p = 0.016, respectively). The same risk alleles conferred, respectively, a five- and four-fold increased risk to be referred for lung transplantation because of end-stage COPD (OR = 5.0, 95% [CI] = 1.68–14.89; p = 0.004 and OR = 4.06, 95% [CI] = 1.39–11.88; p = 0.010). In Europeans, variants in nAChRs associate with an accelerated lung function decline in current smokers and with clinically relevant COPD.
PMCID: PMC3548843  PMID: 23349703
5.  Dissecting direct and indirect genetic effects on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) susceptibility 
Human genetics  2013;132(4):431-441.
Cigarette smoking is the major environmental risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Genome-wide association studies have provided compelling associations for three loci with COPD. In this study, we aimed to estimate direct, i.e., independent from smoking, and indirect effects of those loci on COPD development using mediation analysis. We included a total of 3,424 COPD cases and 1,872 unaffected controls with data on two smoking-related phenotypes: lifetime average smoking intensity and cumulative exposure to tobacco smoke (pack years). Our analysis revealed that effects of two linked variants (rs1051730 and rs8034191) in the AGPHD1/CHRNA3 cluster on COPD development are significantly, yet not entirely, mediated by the smoking-related phenotypes. Approximately 30 % of the total effect of variants in the AGPHD1/CHRNA3 cluster on COPD development was mediated by pack years. Simultaneous analysis of modestly (r2 = 0.21) linked markers in CHRNA3 and IREB2 revealed that an even larger (~42 %) proportion of the total effect of the CHRNA3 locus on COPD was mediated by pack years after adjustment for an IREB2 single nucleotide polymorphism. This study confirms the existence of direct effects of the AGPHD1/CHRNA3, IREB2, FAM13A and HHIP loci on COPD development. While the association of the AGPHD1/CHRNA3 locus with COPD is significantly mediated by smoking-related phenotypes, IREB2 appears to affect COPD independently of smoking.
PMCID: PMC3600068  PMID: 23299987
6.  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.
PMCID: PMC2916847  PMID: 20700436
7.  Multiple cholinergic nicotinic receptor genes affect nicotine dependence risk in African and European Americans 
Genes, brain, and behavior  2010;9(7):741-750.
Several independent studies show that the chromosome 15q25.1 region, which contains the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster, harbors variants strongly associated with nicotine dependence, other smoking behaviors, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
We investigated whether variants in other cholinergic nicotinic receptor subunit (CHRN) genes affect risk for nicotine dependence in a new sample of African-Americans (N = 710). We also analyzed this African-American sample together with a European-American sample (N=2062, 1608 of which have been previously studied), allowing for differing effects in the two populations. Cases are current nicotine-dependent smokers and controls are non-dependent smokers.
Variants in or near CHRND-CHRNG, CHRNA7, and CHRNA10 show modest association with nicotine dependence risk in the African-American sample. In addition, CHRNA4, CHRNB3-CHRNA6, and CHRNB1 show association in at least one population. CHRNG and CHRNA4 harbor SNPs that have opposite directions of effect in the two populations. In each of the population samples, these loci substantially increase the trait variation explained, although no loci meet Bonferroni-corrected significance in the African-American sample alone. The trait variation explained by three key associated SNPs in CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 is 1.9% in European-Americans and also 1.9% in African-Americans; this increases to 4.5% in EAs and 7.3% in AAs when we add six variants representing associations at other CHRN genes.
Multiple nicotinic receptor subunit genes outside of chromosome 15q25 are likely to be important in the biological processes and development of nicotine dependence, and some of these risks may be shared across diverse populations.
PMCID: PMC2970751  PMID: 20584212
genetic association; smoking; cholinergic nicotinic receptors; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors
8.  Epidemiology, radiology, and genetics of nicotine dependence in COPD 
Respiratory Research  2011;12(1):9.
Cigarette smoking is the principal environmental risk factor for developing COPD, and nicotine dependence strongly influences smoking behavior. This study was performed to elucidate the relationship between nicotine dependence, genetic susceptibility to nicotine dependence, and volumetric CT findings in smokers.
Current smokers with COPD (GOLD stage ≥ 2) or normal spirometry were analyzed from the COPDGene Study, a prospective observational study. Nicotine dependence was determined by the Fagerstrom test for nicotine dependence (FTND). Volumetric CT acquisitions measuring the percent of emphysema on inspiratory CT (% of lung <-950 HU) and gas trapping on expiratory CT (% of lung <-856 HU) were obtained. Genotypes for two SNPs in the CHRNA3/5 region (rs8034191, rs1051730) previously associated with nicotine dependence and COPD were analyzed for association to COPD and nicotine dependence phenotypes.
Among 842 currently smoking subjects (335 COPD cases and 507 controls), 329 subjects (39.1%) showed high nicotine dependence. Subjects with high nicotine dependence had greater cumulative and current amounts of smoking. However, emphysema severity was negatively correlated with the FTND score in controls (ρ = -0.19, p < .0001) as well as in COPD cases (ρ = -0.18, p = 0.0008). Lower FTND score, male gender, lower body mass index, and lower FEV1 were independent risk factors for emphysema severity in COPD cases. Both CHRNA3/5 SNPs were associated with FTND in current smokers. An association of genetic variants in CHRNA3/5 with severity of emphysema was only found in former smokers, but not in current smokers.
Nicotine dependence was a negative predictor for emphysema on CT in COPD and control smokers. Increased inflammation in more highly addicted current smokers could influence the CT lung density distribution, which may influence genetic association studies of emphysema phenotypes.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials (NCT): NCT00608764
PMCID: PMC3033825  PMID: 21232152
9.  A Functional Polymorphism in the CHRNA3 Gene and Risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in a Korean Population 
Journal of Korean Medical Science  2012;27(12):1536-1540.
A genome-wide association study has identified the 15q25 region as being associated with the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in Caucasians. This study intended as a confirmatory assessment of this association in a Korean population. The rs6495309C > T polymorphism in the promoter of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor alpha subunit 3 (CHRNA3) gene was investigated in a case-control study that consisted of 406 patients with COPD and 394 healthy control subjects. The rs6495309 CT or TT genotype was associated with a significantly decreased risk of COPD when compared to the rs6495309 CC genotype (adjusted odds ratio = 0.69, 95% confidence interval = 0.50-0.95, P = 0.023). The effect of the rs6495309C > T on the risk of COPD was more evident in moderate to very severe COPD than in mild COPD under a dominant model for the variant T allele (P = 0.024 for homogeneity). The CHRNA3 rs6495309C > T polymorphism on chromosome 15q25 is associated with the risk of COPD in a Korean population.
PMCID: PMC3524434  PMID: 23255854
CHRNA3; Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive; Polymorphism
10.  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.
PMCID: PMC2587068  PMID: 19010884
11.  Smoking Is Associated with, but Does Not Cause, Depressed Mood in Pregnancy – A Mendelian Randomization Study 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e21689.
Smokers have a higher prevalence of major depressive episodes and depressive symptoms than the general population, but whether this association is causal, or is due to confounding or reverse causation is uncertain because of the problems inherent in some epidemiological studies. Mendelian randomization, in which a genetic variant is used as a surrogate for measuring exposure, is an approach which may be used to better understand this association. We investigated the rs1051730 single nucleotide polymorphism in the nicotine acetylcholine receptor gene cluster (CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4), associated with smoking phenotypes, to determine whether women who continued to smoke were also more likely to report a low mood during pregnancy. We found among women who smoked pre-pregnancy, those with the 1051730 T allele smoked more and were less likely to quit smoking during pregnancy, but were also less likely to report high levels of depressed mood at 18 weeks of pregnancy (per allele OR = 0.84, 95%CI 0.72 to 0.99, p = 0.034). The association between genotype and depressed mood was limited to women who were smokers prior to pregnancy, with weak evidence of an interaction between smoking status and genotype (p = 0.07). Our results do not support a causal role of smoking on depressed mood, but are consistent with a self-medication hypothesis, whereby smoking is used to alleviate symptoms of depression. A replication study using multiple genetic variants which influence smoking via different pathways is required to confirm these findings and provide evidence that the genetic variant is reflecting the effect of quitting smoking on depressed mood, and is not directly affecting mood.
PMCID: PMC3139580  PMID: 21818261
12.  A genome-wide association study of COPD identifies a susceptibility locus on chromosome 19q13 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;21(4):947-957.
The genetic risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are still largely unknown. To date, genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of limited size have identified several novel risk loci for COPD at CHRNA3/CHRNA5/IREB2, HHIP and FAM13A; additional loci may be identified through larger studies. We performed a GWAS using a total of 3499 cases and 1922 control subjects from four cohorts: the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints (ECLIPSE); the Normative Aging Study (NAS) and National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT); Bergen, Norway (GenKOLS); and the COPDGene study. Genotyping was performed on Illumina platforms with additional markers imputed using 1000 Genomes data; results were summarized using fixed-effect meta-analysis. We identified a new genome-wide significant locus on chromosome 19q13 (rs7937, OR = 0.74, P = 2.9 × 10−9). Genotyping this single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and another nearby SNP in linkage disequilibrium (rs2604894) in 2859 subjects from the family-based International COPD Genetics Network study (ICGN) demonstrated supportive evidence for association for COPD (P = 0.28 and 0.11 for rs7937 and rs2604894), pre-bronchodilator FEV1 (P = 0.08 and 0.04) and severe (GOLD 3&4) COPD (P = 0.09 and 0.017). This region includes RAB4B, EGLN2, MIA and CYP2A6, and has previously been identified in association with cigarette smoking behavior.
PMCID: PMC3298111  PMID: 22080838
13.  Rare nonsynonymous variants in alpha-4 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor gene protect against nicotine dependence 
Biological psychiatry  2011;70(6):528-536.
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.
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).
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3199609  PMID: 21683344
Nicotine dependence; rare variants; nonsynonymous; CHRNA4; imaging genetics; deep sequencing
14.  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).
PMCID: PMC3259016  PMID: 22042774
15.  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.
PMCID: PMC2714722  PMID: 19443489
16.  CHRNA3/5, IREB2, and ADCY2 Are Associated with Severe Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in Poland 
We examined the association between single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) previously associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and/or lung function with COPD and COPD-related phenotypes in a novel cohort of patients with severe to very severe COPD. We examined 315 cases of COPD and 330 Caucasian control smokers from Poland. We included three SNPs previously associated with COPD: rs7671167 (FAM13A), rs13180 (IREB2), and rs8034191 (CHRNA 3/5), and four SNPs associated with lung function in a genome-wide association study of general population samples: rs2070600 (AGER), rs11134242 (ADCY2), rs4316710 (THSD4), and rs17096090 (INTS12). We tested for associations with severe COPD and COPD-related phenotypes, including lung function, smoking behavior, and body mass index. Subjects with COPD were older (average age 62 versus 58 years, P < 0.01), with more pack-years of smoking (45 versus 33 pack-years, P < 0.01). CHRNA3/5 (odds ratio [OR], 1.89; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.5–2.4; P = 7.4 × 10−7), IREB2 (OR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.5–0.9; P = 3.4 × 10−3), and ADCY2 (OR, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.1–1.7; P = 0.01) demonstrated significant associations with COPD. FAM13A (OR, 0.8; 95% CI, 0.7–1.0; P = 0.11) approached statistical significance. FAM13A and ADCY2 also demonstrated a significant association with lung function. Thus, in severe to very severe COPD, we demonstrate a replication of association between two SNPs previously associated with COPD (CHRNA3/5 and IREB2), as well as an association with COPD of one locus initially associated with lung function (ADCY2).
PMCID: PMC3423462  PMID: 22461431
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; genetic association analysis; lung function; smoking; nicotine addiction
17.  Association of serum cotinine level with a cluster of three nicotinic acetylcholine receptor genes (CHRNA3/CHRNA5/CHRNB4) on chromosome 15 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(20):4007-4012.
A cluster of three nicotinic acetylcholine receptor genes on chromosome 15 (CHRNA5/CHRNA3/CHRNB4) has been shown to be associated with nicotine dependence and smoking quantity. The aim of this study was to clarify whether the variation at this locus regulates nicotine intake among smokers by using the level of a metabolite of nicotine, cotinine, as an outcome. The number of cigarettes smoked per day (CPD) and immune-reactive serum cotinine level were determined in 516 daily smokers (age 30–75 years, 303 males) from the population-based Health2000 study. Association of 21 SNPs from a 100 kb region of chromosome 15 with cotinine and CPD was examined. SNP rs1051730 showed the strongest association to both measures. However, this SNP accounted for nearly a five-fold larger proportion of variance in cotinine levels than in CPD (R2 4.3% versus 0.9%). The effect size of the SNP was 0.30 for cotinine level, whereas it was 0.13 for CPD. Variation at CHRNA5/CHRNA3/CHRNB4 cluster influences nicotine level, measured as cotinine, more strongly than smoking quantity, measured by CPD, and appears thus to be involved in regulation of nicotine levels among smokers.
PMCID: PMC2748889  PMID: 19628476
18.  From Men to Mice: CHRNA5/CHRNA3, Smoking Behavior and Disease 
Nicotine & Tobacco Research  2012;14(11):1291-1299.
The nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) gene cluster CHRNA5-A3-B4 on chromosome 15 has been the subject of a considerable body of research over recent years. Two highly correlated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within this region—rs16969968 in CHRNA5 and rs1051730 in CHRNA3—have generated particular interest.
We reviewed the literature relating to SNPs rs16969968 and rs1051730 and smoking-related phenotypes, and clinical and preclinical studies, which shed light on the mechanisms underlying these associations.
Following the initial discovery of an association between this locus and smoking behavior, further associations with numerous phenotypes have been subsequently identified, including smoking-related behaviors, diseases, and cognitive phenotypes. Potential mechanisms thought to underlie these have also been described, as well as possible gene × environment interaction effects.
Perhaps counter to the usual route of scientific inquiry, these initial findings, based exclusively on human samples and strengthened by their identification through agnostic genome-wide methods, have led to preclinical research focused on determining the mechanism underlying these associations. Progress has been made using knockout mouse models, highlighting the importance of α5 nAChR subunits in regulating nicotine intake, particularly those localized to the habenula–interpeduncular nucleus pathway. Translational research seeking to evaluate the effect of nicotine challenge on brain activation as a function of rs16969968 genotype using neuroimaging technologies is now called for, which may point to new targets for novel smoking cessation therapies.
PMCID: PMC3482013  PMID: 22544838
19.  Variants in nicotinic acetylcholine receptors α5 and α3 increase risks to nicotine dependence† 
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors bind to nicotine and initiate the physiological and pharmacological responses to tobacco smoking. In this report, we studied the association of α5 and α3 subunits with nicotine dependence and with the symptoms of alcohol and cannabis abuse and dependence in two independent epidemiological samples (n = 815 and 1,121, respectively). In this study, seven single nucleotide polymorphisms were genotyped in the CHRNA5 and CHRNA3 genes. In both samples, we found that the same alleles of rs16969968 (P = 0.0068 and 0.0028) and rs1051730 (P = 0.0237 and 0.0039) were significantly associated with the scores of Fagerström test for nicotine dependence (FTND). In the analyses of the symptoms of abuse/dependence of alcohol and cannabis, we found that rs16969968 and rs1051730 were significantly associated with the symptoms of alcohol abuse or dependence (P = 0.0072 and 0.0057) in the combined sample, but the associated alleles were the opposite of that of FTND. No association with cannabis abuse/dependence was found. These results suggested that the α5 and α3 subunits play a significant role in both nicotine dependence and alcohol abuse/dependence. However, the opposite effects with nicotine dependence and alcohol abuse/dependence were puzzling and future studies are necessary to resolve this issue.
PMCID: PMC3081884  PMID: 19132693
smoking; alcoholism; cannabis; comorbidity; genetic association
20.  Genome-wide association scan of tag SNPs identifies a susceptibility locus for lung cancer at 15q25.1 
Nature genetics  2008;40(5):616-622.
To identify risk variants for lung cancer, we conducted a multistage genome-wide association study. In the discovery phase, we analyzed 315,450 tagging SNPs in 1,154 current and former (ever) smoking cases of European ancestry and 1,137 frequency-matched, ever-smoking controls from Houston, Texas. For replication, we evaluated the ten SNPs most significantly associated with lung cancer in an additional 711 cases and 632 controls from Texas and 2,013 cases and 3,062 controls from the UK. Two SNPs, rs1051730 and rs8034191, mapping to a region of strong linkage disequilibrium within 15q25.1 containing PSMA4 and the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit genes CHRNA3 and CHRNA5, were significantly associated with risk in both replication sets. Combined analysis yielded odds ratios of 1.32 (P < 1 × 10−17) for both SNPs. Haplotype analysis was consistent with there being a single risk variant in this region. We conclude that variation in a region of 15q25.1 containing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors genes contributes to lung cancer risk.
PMCID: PMC2713680  PMID: 18385676
21.  Association between a 15q25 gene variant, nicotine-related habits, lung cancer and COPD among 56 307 individuals from the HUNT study in Norway 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2013;21(11):1293-1299.
Genetic studies have shown an association between single-nucleotide polymorphisms on chromosome 15q25 and smoking-related traits and diseases, such as quantity of smoking, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A discussion has centred on the variants and their effects being directly disease related or indirect via nicotine addiction. To address these discrepancies, we genotyped the single-nucleotide polymorphism rs16969968 in the CHRNA5/A3/B4 gene cluster at chromosome 15q25, in 56 307 individuals from a large homogenous population-based cohort, the North Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT) in Norway. The variant was examined in relation to four different outcomes: lung cancer, loss of lung function equivalent to that of COPD, smoking behaviour and the use of smokeless tobacco (snus). Novel associations were found between rs16969968 and the motivational factor for starting to use snus, and the quantity of snus used. Our results also confirm and extend previous findings for associations between rs16969968 and lung cancer, loss of lung function equivalent to that of COPD, and smoking quantity. Our data suggest a role for rs16969968 in nicotine addiction, and the novel association with snus strengthens this observation.
PMCID: PMC3798835  PMID: 23443019
genetic association; lung cancer; nicotine addiction; COPD; snus
22.  CHRNA3 rs1051730 Genotype and Short-Term Smoking Cessation 
Nicotine & Tobacco Research  2011;13(10):982-988.
The rs1051730 genetic variant within the CHRNA5-A3-B4 gene cluster is associated with heaviness of smoking and has recently been reported to be associated with likelihood of stopping smoking. We investigated the potential association of rs1051730 genotype with reduced likelihood of smoking cessation in 2 cohorts of treatment-seeking smokers in primary care in the United Kingdom.
Data were drawn from 2 clinical trials on which DNA was available. One sample was a randomized placebo-controlled trial of nicotine transdermal patch and the other sample an open-label trial where all participants received nicotine transdermal patch. Smoking status was biochemically verified. Logistic regression was used to assess evidence for association in each sample, and data were combined within a meta-analysis.
There was evidence of association of rs1051730 genotype with short-term (4-week) cessation in our open-label trial sample but not our placebo-controlled trial sample. When combined in a meta-analysis, this effect remained. There was no evidence of association at later follow-up intervals. Adjustment for cigarette consumption and tobacco dependence did not alter these results substantially.
Our data, taken together with previous recent studies, provide some support for a weak association between this variant and short-term smoking cessation in treatment-seeking smokers, which does not seem to operate only among those receiving nicotine replacement therapy. Moreover, the rs1051730 variant may not merely operate as a marker for dependence or heaviness of smoking.
PMCID: PMC3179672  PMID: 21690317
23.  Variants Located Upstream of CHRNB4 on Chromosome 15q25.1 Are Associated with Age at Onset of Daily Smoking and Habitual Smoking 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33513.
Several genome-wide association and candidate gene studies have linked chromosome 15q24–q25.1 (a region including the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster) with alcohol dependence, nicotine dependence and smoking-related illnesses such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. To further examine the impact of these genes on the development of substance use disorders, we tested whether variants within and flanking the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster affect the transition to daily smoking (individuals who smoked cigarettes 4 or more days per week) in a cross sectional sample of adolescents and young adults from the COGA (Collaborative Study of the Genetics of Alcoholism) families. Subjects were recruited from families affected with alcoholism (either as a first or second degree relative) and the comparison families. Participants completed the SSAGA interview, a comprehensive assessment of alcohol and other substance use and related behaviors. Using the Quantitative trait disequilibrium test (QTDT) significant association was detected between age at onset of daily smoking and variants located upstream of CHRNB4. Multivariate analysis using a Cox proportional hazards model further revealed that these variants significantly predict the age at onset of habitual smoking among daily smokers. These variants were not in high linkage disequilibrium (0.28
PMCID: PMC3306405  PMID: 22438940
Single nucleotide allelic variants in the promoter region of the chromosome 15 alpha-7 acetylcholine nicotinic receptor gene (CHRNA7) are associated with both schizophrenia and the P50 auditory evoked potential sensory gating deficit. The purpose of this study was to determine if CHRNA7 promoter allelic variants are also associated with abnormal P50 ratios in persons with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type.
P50 auditory evoked potentials were recorded in a paired stimulus paradigm in 17 subjects with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. The P50 test to conditioning ratio was used as the measure of sensory gating. Mutation screening of the CHRNA7 promoter region was performed on the subjects’ DNA samples. Comparisons to previously obtained data from persons with schizophrenia and controls were made.
Subjects with schizophrenia, regardless of allele status, had an abnormal mean P50 ratio. Subjects with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type and a variant allele had an abnormal mean P50 ratio, whereas those schizoaffective subjects with the common alleles had a normal mean P50 ratio. Normal control subjects had a normal mean ratio, but controls with variant alleles had higher P50 ratios.
In persons with bipolar type schizoaffective disorder, CHRNA7 promoter region allelic variants are linked to the capacity to inhibit the P50 auditory evoked potential and thus are associated with a type of illness genetically and biologically more similar to schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC3123155  PMID: 17192894
schizophrenia; bipolar disorder; chromosomes; human; pair 15; receptors; nicotinic; evoked potentials; auditory
Nicotine & Tobacco Research  2011;13(12):1167-1175.
Variation in the CHRNA5-A3-B4 gene cluster is a promising candidate region for smoking behavior and has been linked to multiple smoking-related phenotypes (e.g., nicotine dependence) and diseases (e.g., lung cancer). Two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), rs16969968 in CHRNA5 and rs1051730 in CHRNA3, have generated particular interest.
We evaluated the published evidence for association between rs16969968 (k = 27 samples) and rs1051730 (k = 44 samples) SNPs with heaviness of smoking using meta-analytic techniques. We explored which SNP provided a stronger genetic signal and investigated study-level characteristics (i.e., ancestry, disease state) to establish whether the strength of association differed across populations. We additionally tested for small study bias and explored the impact of year of publication.
Results and Conclusions:
Meta-analysis indicated compelling evidence of an association between the rs1051730/rs16966968 variants and daily cigarette consumption (fixed effects: B = 0.91, 95% CI = 0.77, 1.06, p < .001; random effects: B = 1.01, 95% CI = 0.81, 1.22, p < .001), equivalent to a per-allele effect of approximately 1 cigarette/day. SNP rs1051730 was found to provide a stronger signal than rs16966968 in stratified analyses (pdiff = .028), although this difference was only qualitatively observed in the subset of samples that provided data on both SNPs. While the functional relevance of rs1051730 is unknown, it may be a strong tagging SNP for functional haplotypes in this region.
PMCID: PMC3223575  PMID: 22071378

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