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1.  Genetic Determinants for Promoter Hypermethylation in the Lungs of Smokers: A Candidate Gene-Based Study 
Cancer Research  2011;72(3):707-715.
The detection of tumor suppressor gene promoter methylation in sputum-derived exfoliated cells predicts early lung cancer. Here we identified genetic determinants for this epigenetic process and examined their biological effects on gene regulation. A two-stage approach involving discovery and replication was employed to assess the association between promoter hypermethylation of a 12-gene panel and common variation in 40 genes involved in carcinogen metabolism, regulation of methylation, and DNA damage response in members of the Lovelace Smokers Cohort (n=1434). Molecular validation of three identified variants was conducted using primary bronchial epithelial cells. Association of study-wide significance (P<8.2×10−5) was identified for rs1641511, rs3730859, and rs1883264 in TP53, LIG1, and BIK, respectively. These SNPs were significantly associated with altered expression of the corresponding genes in primary bronchial epithelial cells. In addition, rs3730859 in LIG1 was also moderately associated with increased risk for lung cancer among Caucasian smokers. Together, our findings suggest that genetic variation in DNA replication and apoptosis pathways impacts the propensity for gene promoter hypermethylation in the aerodigestive tract of smokers. The incorporation of genetic biomarkers for gene promoter hypermethylation with clinical and somatic markers may improve risk assessment models for lung cancer.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-3194
PMCID: PMC3271143  PMID: 22139380
DNA damage response; promoter hypermethylation; single nucleotide polymorphism; sputum; smoker
2.  The A/G Allele of Rs16906252 Predicts for MGMT Methylation and Is Selectively Silenced in Premalignant Lesions from Smokers and in Lung Adenocarcinomas 
Purpose
To address the association between sequence variants within the MGMT promoter-enhancer region and methylation of MGMT in premalignant lesions from smokers and lung adenocarcinomas, their biological effects on gene regulation, and targeting MGMT for therapy.
Experimental Design
SNPs identified through sequencing a 1.9kb fragment 5' of MGMT were examined in relation to MGMT methylation in 169 lung adenocarcinomas and 1731 sputum samples from smokers. The effect of promoter haplotypes on MGMT expression was tested using a luciferase reporter assay and cDNA expression analysis along with allele-specific sequencing for methylation. The response of MGMT methylated lung cancer cell lines to the alkylating agent temozolomide was assessed.
Results
The A allele of rs16906252 and the haplotype containing this SNP were strongly associated with increased risk for MGMT methylation in adenocarcinomas (ORs ≥ 94). This association was observed to a lesser extent in sputum samples in both smoker cohorts. The A allele was selectively methylated in primary lung tumors and cell lines heterozygous for rs16906252. With the most common haplotype as the reference, a 20–41% reduction in promoter activity was seen for the haplotype carrying the A allele that correlated with lower MGMT expression. The sensitivity of lung cancer cell lines to temozolamide was strongly correlated with levels of MGMT methylation and expression.
Conclusions
These studies provide strong evidence that the A allele of a MGMT promoter-enhancer SNP is a key determinant for MGMT methylation in lung carcinogenesis. Moreover, temozolamide treatment may benefit a subset of lung cancer patients methylated for MGMT.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-10-3026
PMCID: PMC3070839  PMID: 21355081
MGMT; allele specific methylation; single nucleotide polymorphism; sputum; lung cancer
3.  Multi-Vitamins, Folate, and Green Vegetables Protect Against Gene Promoter Methylation in the Aerodigestive Tract of Smokers 
Cancer research  2010;70(2):568-574.
The detection of gene promoter hypermethylation in sputum is a promising molecular marker for early lung cancer detection. Epidemiologic studies suggest that dietary fruits and vegetables and the micronutrients they contain may reduce risk of lung cancer. This investigation evaluated whether diet and multi-vitamin use influence the prevalence for gene methylation in the cells exfoliated from the aerodigestive tract of current and former smokers. Members (n = 1101) of the Lovelace Smokers Cohort completed the Harvard Food Frequency Questionnaire and provided a sputum sample that was assessed for promoter methylation of eight genes commonly silenced in lung cancer and associated with risk for this disease. Methylation status was categorized as low (< 2 genes methylated) or high (≥2 genes methylated). Logistic regression models were used to identify associations between methylation status and 21 dietary variables hypothesized to affect the acquisition of gene methylation. Significant protection against methylation was observed for leafy green vegetables (OR = 0.83 per 12 monthly servings, CI: 0.74, 0.93) and folate (OR = 0.84 per 750 mcg/day, CI: 0.72, 0.99). Protection against gene methylation was also seen with current use of multi-vitamins (OR = 0.57, CI: 0.40, 0.83). This is the first cohort-based study to identify dietary factors associated with reduced promoter methylation in cells exfoliated from the airway epithelium of smokers. Novel interventions to prevent lung cancer should be developed based on the ability of diet and dietary supplements to affect reprogramming of the epigenome.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-3410
PMCID: PMC3076796  PMID: 20068159
gene methylation; folate; multi-vitamins; green vegetables; smokers
4.  Discovery of common SNPs in the miR-205/200 family-regulated epithelial to mesenchymal transition pathway and their association with risk for non-small cell lung cancer 
The activation of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) program is an important step for tumor initiation, invasion, and metastasis in solid tumors, including lung cancer. The purpose of this study was to identify the sequence variants in the miR-205/200 family-regulated EMT pathway and test their association with risk for lung cancer. Fifty samples were resequenced to identify sequence variants in the miR-205/200 family-regulated EMT pathway. The association between tagSNPs and risk for non-small cell lung cancer was discovered and validated in New Mexico (386 cases and 514 controls) and Massachusetts (2453 cases and 1555 controls) case-control studies, respectively. The function of SNPs on miR-200b-a-429 promoter activity was tested using luciferase reporter and expression assays. Forty-one sequence variants with minor allele frequency ≥ 0.03 were identified, and 16 variants were selected as tagSNPs. Genetic association analysis identified that the G allele of rs61768479 was associated with a 50% reduced risk for lung cancer (OR=0.50, 95%CI=0.30-0.85, uncorr-P=0.01); however, this association was not validated (OR=0.90, 95%CI=0.72-1.13, uncorr-P=0.35). The G allele of rs61768479 was associated with lower promoter activity and miR expression by disrupting the binding of NKX2.5. In summary, no association was identified between sequence variants in the miR-205/200 family-regulated EMT pathway and risk for lung cancer. However, this study identified a comprehensive panel of tagSNPs (n=16) in the miR-205/200 family-regulated EMT pathway that can be applied to other EMT-related phenotypes such as cancer chemoresistence and prognosis.
PMCID: PMC3110389  PMID: 21686129
miR-200 family; miR-205; sequence variant; risk; lung cancer
5.  A SNP in a let-7 microRNA complementary site in the KRAS 3′UTR Increases Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Risk 
Cancer research  2008;68(20):8535-8540.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, yet few genetic markers of lung cancer risk useful for screening exist. The let-7 family-of-microRNAs (miRNAs) are global genetic regulators important in controlling lung cancer oncogene expression by binding to the 3′UTRs (untranslated regions) of their target messenger RNAs (mRNAs). The purpose of this study was to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that could modify let-7 binding and to assess the effect of such SNPs on target gene regulation and risk for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). let-7 complementary sites (LCSs) were sequenced in the KRAS 3′UTR from 74 NSCLC cases to identify mutations and SNPs that correlated with NSCLC. The allele frequency of a previously un-identified SNP at LCS6 was characterized in 2433 people (representing 46 human populations). The frequency of the variant allele is 18.1–20.3% in NSCLC patients and 5.8% in world populations. The association between the SNP and the risk for NSCLC was defined in two independent case-control studies. A case-control study of lung cancer from New Mexico showed a 2.3-fold increased risk (C.I.= 1.1–4.6, p = 0.02) for NSCLC cancer in patients who smoked < 40 pack years. This association was validated in a second independent case-control study. Functionally, the variant allele results in KRAS over-expression in vitro. The LCS6 variant allele in a KRAS miRNA complementary site is significantly associated with increased risk for NSCLC among moderate smokers, and represents a new paradigm for let-7 miRNAs in lung cancer susceptibility.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-2129
PMCID: PMC2672193  PMID: 18922928
6.  Haplotypes of DNMT1 and DNMT3B are associated with mutagen sensitivity induced by benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide among smokers 
Carcinogenesis  2008;29(7):1380-1385.
The mutagen sensitivity assay is an in vitro measure of DNA repair capacity used to evaluate intrinsic susceptibility for cancer. The high heritability of mutagen sensitivity to different mutagens validates the use of this phenotype to predict cancer susceptibility. However, genetic determinants of mutagen sensitivity have not been fully characterized. Recently, several studies found that three major cytosine DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs), especially DNMT1, have a direct role in the DNA damage response, independent of their methyltransferase activity. This study evaluated the hypothesis that sequence variants in DNMT1, DNMT3A and DNMT3B are associated with mutagen sensitivity induced by the tobacco carcinogen benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide (BPDE) in 278 cancer-free smokers. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms (n = 134) dispersed over the entire gene and regulatory regions of these DNMTs were genotyped by the Illumina Golden Gate Assay. DNA sequence variation in the DNMT1 and DNMT3B loci was globally associated with breaks per cell (P < 0.04 for both). No global association between DNMT3A and breaks per cell was seen (P = 0.09). Two haplotypes in block1 of DNMT1 (H284) and 3B (H70) were associated with 16 and 24% increase in breaks per cell, respectively. Subjects with three or four adverse haplotypes of both DNMT1 and 3B had a 50% elevation in mean level of breaks per cell compared with persons without adverse alleles (P = 0.004). The association between sequence variants of DNMT1 and 3B and mutagen sensitivity induced by BPDE supports the involvement of these DNMTs in protecting the cell from DNA damage.
doi:10.1093/carcin/bgn121
PMCID: PMC2899849  PMID: 18499700
7.  Double-strand break damage and associated DNA repair genes predispose smokers to gene methylation 
Cancer research  2008;68(8):3049-3056.
Gene promoter hypermethylation in sputum is a promising biomarker for predicting lung cancer. Identifying factors that predispose smokers to methylation of multiple gene promoters in the lung could impact strategies for early detection and chemoprevention. This study evaluated the hypothesis that double-strand break repair capacity and sequence variation in genes in this pathway are associated with a high methylation index in a cohort of current and former cancer-free smokers. A 50% reduction in the mean level of double-strand break repair capacity was seen in lymphocytes from smokers with a high methylation index, defined as ≥ 3 of 8 genes methylated in sputum, compared to smokers with no genes methylated. The classification accuracy for predicting risk for methylation was 88%. Single nucleotide polymorphisms within the MRE11A, CHEK2, XRCC3, DNA-Pkc, and NBN DNA repair genes were highly associated with the methylation index. A 14.5-fold increased odds for high methylation was seen for persons with ≥ 7 risk alleles of these genes. Promoter activity of the MRE11A gene that plays a critical role in recognition of DNA damage and activation of ATM was reduced in persons with the risk allele. Collectively, ours is the first population-based study to identify double-strand break DNA repair capacity and specific genes within this pathway as critical determinants for gene methylation in sputum, that is, in turn, associated with elevated risk for lung cancer.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-07-6344
PMCID: PMC2483467  PMID: 18413776
promoter methylation; DNA double strand break; single nucleotide polymorphism; DNA repair capacity; association study
8.  Genotypes in matrix metalloproteinase 9 are a risk factor for COPD 
A growing body of evidence indicates that matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) play a role in the pathogenesis of COPD. Therefore, we conducted a candidate gene association study of 4 promoter polymorphisms that are known to modify expression levels of the MMP-1, MMP-2, and MMP-9 genes and a Gln279Arg polymorphism in exon 6 of MMP-9 that modifies the substrate-binding region. We examined the association of each variant and haplotypes in 385 male veterans with greater than 20 pack-years of cigarette smoking whose COPD status was characterized using spirometry. The association of these polymorphisms was also examined with decline of pulmonary function in a subset of participants. Only the 279Arg variant was more common in participants with COPD and the homozygous variant was associated with a 3-fold increased risk for COPD. In the haplotype analysis, the haplotype comprising the 249Arg and the CA promoter polymorphism within the MMP-9 gene was associated with risk, suggesting that either 279Arg or a linked variant on this haplotype underlies the association. No association of this polymorphism was found with decline in pulmonary function. These studies show that variants of the MMP-9 gene are associated with COPD in this cohort of veterans.
PMCID: PMC2707156  PMID: 18046864
metalloproteinase; smoking; pulmonary function; single nucleotide polymorphism; molecular epidemiology
9.  Difference in airflow obstruction between Hispanic and non-Hispanic white female smokers 
COPD  2008;5(5):274-281.
Rationale
Smoking-related respiratory diseases are a major cause of morbidity and mortality. However, the relationship between smoking and respiratory disease has not been well-studied among ethnic minorities in general and among women in particular.
Objective
The objective of this cross-sectional study was to evaluate the risk of airflow obstruction and to assess lung function among Hispanic and non-Hispanic white (NHW) female smokers in a New Mexico cohort.
Methods
Participants completed a questionnaire detailing smoking history and underwent spirometry testing. Outcomes studied included airflow obstruction, selected lung function parameters, and chronic mucus hyper-secretion. Chi square, logistic, and linear regression techniques were utilized.
Main findings
Of the 1,433 eligible women participants, 248 (17.3%) were Hispanic; and 319 had airflow obstruction (22.3%). Hispanic smokers were more likely to be current smokers, and report lower pack-years of smoking, compared to NHW smokers (p < 0.05 for all analyses). Further, Hispanic smokers were at a reduced risk of airflow obstruction compared to NHW smokers, with an O.R. of 0.51, 95% C.I. 0.34, 0.78 (p = 0.002) after adjustment for age, BMI, pack-years and duration of smoking, and current smoking status. Following adjustment for covariates, Hispanic smokers also had a higher mean absolute and percent predicted post-bronchodilator FEV1/FVC ratio, as well as higher mean percent predicted FEV1 (p < 0.05 for all analyses).
Principal conclusions
Hispanic female smokers in this New Mexico-based cohort had lower risk of airflow obstruction and better lung function than NHW female smokers. Further, smoking history did not completely explain these associations.
doi:10.1080/15412550802363345
PMCID: PMC3616889  PMID: 18972275
Hispanic ethnicity; Smokers; Airflow obstruction; Pulmonary function; Chronic mucus hyper-secretion; Women

Results 1-9 (9)