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1.  Genome-wide association study of body mass index in 23,000 individuals with and without asthma 
Background
Both asthma and obesity are complex disorders that are influenced by environmental and genetic factors. Shared genetic factors between asthma and obesity have been proposed to partly explain epidemiological findings of co-morbidity between these conditions.
Objective
To identify genetic variants that are associated with body mass index (BMI) in asthmatic children and adults, and to evaluate if there are differences between the genetics of BMI in asthmatics and healthy individuals.
Methods
In total, 19 studies contributed with genome-wide analysis study (GWAS) data from more than 23,000 individuals with predominantly European descent, of whom 8,165 are asthmatics.
Results
We report associations between several DENND1B variants (p=2.2×10−7 for rs4915551) on chromosome 1q31 and BMI from a meta-analysis of GWAS data using 2,691 asthmatic children (screening data). The top DENND1B SNPs were next evaluated in seven independent replication data sets comprising 2,014 asthmatics, and rs4915551 was nominally replicated (p<0.05) in two of the seven studies and of borderline significance in one (p=0.059). However, strong evidence of effect heterogeneity was observed and overall, the association between rs4915551 and BMI was not significant in the total replication data set, p=0.71. Using a random effects model, BMI was overall estimated to increase by 0.30 kg/m2 (p=0.01 for combined screening and replication data sets, N=4,705) per additional G allele of this DENND1B SNP. FTO was confirmed as an important gene for adult and childhood BMI regardless of asthma status.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance
DENND1B was recently identified as an asthma susceptibility gene in a GWAS on children, and here we find evidence that DENND1B variants may also be associated with BMI in asthmatic children. However, the association was overall not replicated in the independent data sets and the heterogeneous effect of DENND1B points to complex associations with the studied diseases that deserve further study.
doi:10.1111/cea.12054
PMCID: PMC3608930  PMID: 23517042
Association; Asthma; BMI; Genetics; Genome-wide; Obesity
2.  Rule-Based Models of the Interplay between Genetic and Environmental Factors in Childhood Allergy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80080.
Both genetic and environmental factors are important for the development of allergic diseases. However, a detailed understanding of how such factors act together is lacking. To elucidate the interplay between genetic and environmental factors in allergic diseases, we used a novel bioinformatics approach that combines feature selection and machine learning. In two materials, PARSIFAL (a European cross-sectional study of 3113 children) and BAMSE (a Swedish birth-cohort including 2033 children), genetic variants as well as environmental and lifestyle factors were evaluated for their contribution to allergic phenotypes. Monte Carlo feature selection and rule based models were used to identify and rank rules describing how combinations of genetic and environmental factors affect the risk of allergic diseases. Novel interactions between genes were suggested and replicated, such as between ORMDL3 and RORA, where certain genotype combinations gave odds ratios for current asthma of 2.1 (95% CI 1.2-3.6) and 3.2 (95% CI 2.0-5.0) in the BAMSE and PARSIFAL children, respectively. Several combinations of environmental factors appeared to be important for the development of allergic disease in children. For example, use of baby formula and antibiotics early in life was associated with an odds ratio of 7.4 (95% CI 4.5-12.0) of developing asthma. Furthermore, genetic variants together with environmental factors seemed to play a role for allergic diseases, such as the use of antibiotics early in life and COL29A1 variants for asthma, and farm living and NPSR1 variants for allergic eczema. Overall, combinations of environmental and life style factors appeared more frequently in the models than combinations solely involving genes. In conclusion, a new bioinformatics approach is described for analyzing complex data, including extensive genetic and environmental information. Interactions identified with this approach could provide useful hints for further in-depth studies of etiological mechanisms and may also strengthen the basis for risk assessment and prevention.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080080
PMCID: PMC3833974  PMID: 24260339
3.  A genome-wide association study of atopic dermatitis identifies loci with overlapping effects on asthma and psoriasis 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(23):4841-4856.
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most common dermatological disease of childhood. Many children with AD have asthma and AD shares regions of genetic linkage with psoriasis, another chronic inflammatory skin disease. We present here a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of childhood-onset AD in 1563 European cases with known asthma status and 4054 European controls. Using Illumina genotyping followed by imputation, we generated 268 034 consensus genotypes and in excess of 2 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for analysis. Association signals were assessed for replication in a second panel of 2286 European cases and 3160 European controls. Four loci achieved genome-wide significance for AD and replicated consistently across all cohorts. These included the epidermal differentiation complex (EDC) on chromosome 1, the genomic region proximal to LRRC32 on chromosome 11, the RAD50/IL13 locus on chromosome 5 and the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on chromosome 6; reflecting action of classical HLA alleles. We observed variation in the contribution towards co-morbid asthma for these regions of association. We further explored the genetic relationship between AD, asthma and psoriasis by examining previously identified susceptibility SNPs for these diseases. We found considerable overlap between AD and psoriasis together with variable coincidence between allergic rhinitis (AR) and asthma. Our results indicate that the pathogenesis of AD incorporates immune and epidermal barrier defects with combinations of specific and overlapping effects at individual loci.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddt317
PMCID: PMC3820131  PMID: 23886662
4.  Interaction between Retinoid Acid Receptor-Related Orphan Receptor Alpha (RORA) and Neuropeptide S Receptor 1 (NPSR1) in Asthma 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60111.
Retinoid acid receptor-related Orphan Receptor Alpha (RORA) was recently identified as a susceptibility gene for asthma in a genome-wide association study. To investigate the impact of RORA on asthma susceptibility, we performed a genetic association study between RORA single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the vicinity of the asthma-associated SNP (rs11071559) and asthma-related traits. Because the regulatory region of a previously implicated asthma susceptibility gene, Neuropeptide S receptor 1 (NPSR1), has predicted elements for RORA binding, we hypothesized that RORA may interact biologically and genetically with NPSR1. 37 RORA SNPs and eight NPSR1 SNPs were genotyped in the Swedish birth cohort BAMSE (2033 children) and the European cross-sectional PARSIFAL study (1120 children). Seven RORA SNPs confined into a 49 kb region were significantly associated with physician-diagnosed childhood asthma. The most significant association with rs7164773 (T/C) was driven by the CC genotype in asthma cases (OR = 2.0, 95%CI 1.36–2.93, p = 0.0003 in BAMSE; and 1.61, 1.18–2.19, p = 0.002 in the combined BAMSE-PARSIFAL datasets, respectively), and strikingly, the risk effect was dependent on the Gln344Arg mutation in NPSR1. In cell models, stimulation of NPSR1 activated a pathway including RORA and other circadian clock genes. Over-expression of RORA decreased NPSR1 promoter activity further suggesting a regulatory loop between these genes. In addition, Rora mRNA expression was lower in the lung tissue of Npsr1 deficient mice compared to wildtype littermates during the early hours of the light period. We conclude that RORA SNPs are associated with childhood asthma and show epistasis with NPSR1, and the interaction between RORA and NPSR1 may be of biological relevance. Combinations of common susceptibility alleles and less common functional polymorphisms may modify the joint risk effects on asthma susceptibility.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060111
PMCID: PMC3615072  PMID: 23565190
5.  DNA Methylation in the Neuropeptide S Receptor 1 (NPSR1) Promoter in Relation to Asthma and Environmental Factors 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53877.
Asthma and allergy are complex disorders influenced by both inheritance and environment, a relationship that might be further clarified by epigenetics. Neuropeptide S Receptor 1 (NPSR1) has been associated with asthma and allergy and a study suggested modulation of the genetic risk by environmental factors. We aimed to study DNA methylation in the promoter region of NPSR1 in relation to asthma and environmental exposures. Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay (EMSA) was used to investigate potential functional roles of both genotypes and methylation status in the NPSR1 promoter. DNA methylation was analysed using EpiTYPER in blood samples from two well-characterized cohorts; the BIOAIR study of severe asthma in adults and the Swedish birth cohort BAMSE. We observed that DNA methylation and genetic variants in the promoter influenced the binding of nuclear proteins to DNA, suggesting functional relevance. Significant, although small, differences in methylation were related to both adult severe asthma (p = 0.0001) and childhood allergic asthma (p = 0.01). Furthermore, DNA methylation was associated with exposures such as current smoking in adults for two CpG sites (p = 0.005 and 0.04), parental smoking during infancy in the children (p = 0.02) and in which month the sample was taken (p = 0.01). In summary, DNA methylation levels in the promoter of NPSR1 showed small but significant associations with asthma, both in adults and in children, and to related traits such as allergy and certain environmental exposures. Both genetic variation and the methylated state of CpG sites seem to have an effect on the binding of nuclear proteins in the regulatory region of NPSR1 suggesting complex regulation of this gene in asthma and allergy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053877
PMCID: PMC3553086  PMID: 23372674
6.  Centrosomal Localization of the Psoriasis Candidate Gene Product, CCHCR1, Supports a Role in Cytoskeletal Organization 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49920.
CCHCR1 (Coiled-Coil α-Helical Rod protein 1), within the major psoriasis susceptibility locus PSORS1, is a plausible candidate gene with the psoriasis associated risk allele CCHCR1*WWCC. Although its expression pattern in psoriatic skin differs from healthy skin and its overexpression influences cell proliferation in transgenic mice, its role as a psoriasis effector gene has remained unsettled. The 5′-region of the gene contains a SNP (rs3130453) that controls a 5′-extended open reading frame and thus the translation of alternative isoforms. We have now compared the function of two CCHCR1 isoforms: the novel longer isoform 1 and the previously studied isoform 3. In samples of Finnish and Swedish families, the allele generating only isoform 3 shows association with psoriasis (P<10−7). Both isoforms localize at the centrosome, a cell organelle playing a role in cell division. In stably transfected cells the isoform 3 affects cell proliferation and with the CCHCR1*WWCC allele, also apoptosis. Furthermore, cells overexpressing CCHCR1 show isoform- and haplotype-specific influences in the cell size and shape and alterations in the organization and expression of the cytoskeletal proteins actin, vimentin, and cytokeratins. The isoform 1 with the non-risk allele induces the expression of keratin 17, a hallmark for psoriasis; the silencing of CCHCR1 reduces its expression in HEK293 cells. CCHCR1 also regulates EGF-induced STAT3 activation in an isoform-specific manner: the tyrosine phosphorylation of STAT3 is disturbed in isoform 3-transfected cells. The centrosomal localization of CCHCR1 provides a connection to the abnormal cell proliferation and offers a link to possible cellular pathways altered in psoriasis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049920
PMCID: PMC3506594  PMID: 23189171
7.  META-ANALYSIS OF GENOME-WIDE ASSOCIATION STUDIES IDENTIFIES THREE NEW RISK LOCI FOR ATOPIC DERMATITIS 
Paternoster, Lavinia | Standl, Marie | Chen, Chih-Mei | Ramasamy, Adaikalavan | Bønnelykke, Klaus | Duijts, Liesbeth | Ferreira, Manuel A | Alves, Alexessander Couto | Thyssen, Jacob P | Albrecht, Eva | Baurecht, Hansjörg | Feenstra, Bjarke | Sleiman, Patrick MA | Hysi, Pirro | Warrington, Nicole M | Curjuric, Ivan | Myhre, Ronny | Curtin, John A | Groen-Blokhuis, Maria M | Kerkhof, Marjan | Sääf, Annika | Franke, Andre | Ellinghaus, David | Fölster-Holst, Regina | Dermitzakis, Emmanouil | Montgomery, Stephen B | Prokisch, Holger | Heim, Katharina | Hartikainen, Anna-Liisa | Pouta, Anneli | Pekkanen, Juha | Blakemore, Alexandra IF | Buxton, Jessica L | Kaakinen, Marika | Duffy, David L | Madden, Pamela A | Heath, Andrew C | Montgomery, Grant W | Thompson, Philip J | Matheson, Melanie C | Le Souëf, Peter | Pourcain, Beate St | Smith, George Davey | Henderson, John | Kemp, John P | Timpson, Nicholas J | Deloukas, Panos | Ring, Susan M | Wichmann, H-Erich | Müller-Nurasyid, Martina | Novak, Natalija | Klopp, Norman | Rodríguez, Elke | McArdle, Wendy | Linneberg, Allan | Menné, Torkil | Nohr, Ellen A | Hofman, Albert | Uitterlinden, André G | van Duijn, Cornélia M | Rivadeneira, Fernando | de Jongste, Johan C | van der Valk, Ralf JP | Wjst, Matthias | Jogi, Rain | Geller, Frank | Boyd, Heather A | Murray, Jeffrey C | Kim, Cecilia | Mentch, Frank | March, Michael | Mangino, Massimo | Spector, Tim D | Bataille, Veronique | Pennell, Craig E | Holt, Patrick G | Sly, Peter | Tiesler, Carla MT | Thiering, Elisabeth | Illig, Thomas | Imboden, Medea | Nystad, Wenche | Simpson, Angela | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Postma, Dirkje | Koppelman, Gerard H | Smit, Henriette A | Söderhäll, Cilla | Chawes, Bo | Kreiner-Møller, Eskil | Bisgaard, Hans | Melén, Erik | Boomsma, Dorret I | Custovic, Adnan | Jacobsson, Bo | Probst-Hensch, Nicole M | Palmer, Lyle J | Glass, Daniel | Hakonarson, Hakon | Melbye, Mads | Jarvis, Deborah L | Jaddoe, Vincent WV | Gieger, Christian | Strachan, David P | Martin, Nicholas G | Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Heinrich, Joachim | Evans, David M | Weidinger, Stephan
Nature genetics  2011;44(2):187-192.
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common chronic skin disease with high heritability. Apart from filaggrin (FLG), the genes influencing AD are largely unknown. We conducted a genome-wide association meta-analysis of 5,606 cases and 20,565 controls from 16 population-based cohorts and followed up the ten most strongly associated novel markers in a further 5,419 cases and 19,833 controls from 14 studies. Three SNPs met genome-wide significance in the discovery and replication cohorts combined: rs479844 upstream of OVOL1 (OR=0.88, p=1.1×10−13) and rs2164983 near ACTL9 (OR=1.16, p=7.1×10−9), genes which have been implicated in epidermal proliferation and differentiation, as well as rs2897442 in KIF3A within the cytokine cluster on 5q31.1 (OR=1.11, p=3.8×10−8). We also replicated the FLG locus and two recently identified association signals at 11q13.5 (rs7927894, p=0.008) and 20q13.3 (rs6010620, p=0.002). Our results underline the importance of both epidermal barrier function and immune dysregulation in AD pathogenesis.
doi:10.1038/ng.1017
PMCID: PMC3272375  PMID: 22197932
8.  Differential DNA Methylation in Purified Human Blood Cells: Implications for Cell Lineage and Studies on Disease Susceptibility 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41361.
Methylation of cytosines at CpG sites is a common epigenetic DNA modification that can be measured by a large number of methods, now even in a genome-wide manner for hundreds of thousands of sites. The application of DNA methylation analysis is becoming widely popular in complex disorders, for example, to understand part of the “missing heritability”. The DNA samples most readily available for methylation studies are derived from whole blood. However, blood consists of many functionally and developmentally distinct cell populations in varying proportions. We studied whether such variation might affect the interpretation of methylation studies based on whole blood DNA. We found in healthy male blood donors there is important variation in the methylation profiles of whole blood, mononuclear cells, granulocytes, and cells from seven selected purified lineages. CpG methylation between mononuclear cells and granulocytes differed for 22% of the 8252 probes covering the selected 343 genes implicated in immune-related disorders by genome-wide association studies, and at least one probe was differentially methylated for 85% of the genes, indicating that whole blood methylation results might be unintelligible. For individual genes, even if the overall methylation patterns might appear similar, a few CpG sites in the regulatory regions may have opposite methylation patterns (i.e., hypo/hyper) in the main blood cell types. We conclude that interpretation of whole blood methylation profiles should be performed with great caution and for any differences implicated in a disorder, the differences resulting from varying proportions of white blood cell types should be considered.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041361
PMCID: PMC3405143  PMID: 22848472
9.  The asthma candidate gene NPSR1 mediates isoform specific downstream signalling 
Background
Neuropeptide S Receptor 1 (NPSR1, GPRA, GPR154) was first identified as an asthma candidate gene through positional cloning and has since been replicated as an asthma and allergy susceptibility gene in several independent association studies. In humans, NPSR1 encodes two G protein-coupled receptor variants, NPSR1-A and NPSR1-B, with unique intracellular C-termini. Both isoforms show distinct expression pattern in asthmatic airways. Although NPSR1-A has been extensively studied, functional differences and properties of NPSR1-B have not yet been clearly examined. Our objective was to investigate downstream signalling properties of NPSR1-B and functional differences between NPSR1-A and NPSR1-B.
Methods
HEK-293 cells transiently overexpressing NPSR1-A or NPSR1-B were stimulated with the ligand neuropeptide S (NPS) and downstream signalling effects were monitored by genome-scale affymetrix expression-arrays. The results were verified by NPS concentration-response and time series analysis using qRT-PCR, cAMP and Ca2+ assays, and cAMP/PKA, MAPK/JNK and MAPK/ERK pathway specific reporter assays.
Results
NPSR1-B signalled through the same pathways and regulated the same genes as NPSR1-A, but NPSR1-B yielded lower induction on effector genes than NPSR1-A, with one notable exception, CD69, a marker of regulatory T cells.
Conclusions
We conclude that NPSR1-B is regulating essentially identical set of genes as NPSR1-A, with few, but possibly important exceptions, and that NPSR1-A induces stronger signalling effects than NPSR1-B. Our findings suggest an isoform-specific link to pathogenetic processes in asthma and allergy.
doi:10.1186/1471-2466-11-39
PMCID: PMC3142248  PMID: 21707994
10.  MMP12, Lung Function, and COPD in High-Risk Populations 
The New England journal of medicine  2009;361(27):2599-2608.
BACKGROUND
Genetic variants influencing lung function in children and adults may ultimately lead to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), particularly in high-risk groups.
METHODS
We tested for an association between single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the gene encoding matrix metalloproteinase 12 (MMP12) and a measure of lung function (prebronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 second [FEV1]) in more than 8300 subjects in seven cohorts that included children and adults. Within the Normative Aging Study (NAS), a cohort of initially healthy adult men, we tested for an association between SNPs that were associated with FEV1 and the time to the onset of COPD. We then examined the relationship between MMP12 SNPs and COPD in two cohorts of adults with COPD or at risk for COPD.
RESULTS
The minor allele (G) of a functional variant in the promoter region of MMP12 (rs2276109 [−82A→G]) was positively associated with FEV1 in a combined analysis of children with asthma and adult former and current smokers in all cohorts (P=2×10−6). This allele was also associated with a reduced risk of the onset of COPD in the NAS cohort (hazard ratio, 0.65; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.46 to 0.92; P = 0.02) and with a reduced risk of COPD in a cohort of smokers (odds ratio, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.45 to 0.88; P = 0.005) and among participants in a family-based study of early-onset COPD (P = 0.006).
CONCLUSIONS
The minor allele of a SNP in MMP12 (rs2276109) is associated with a positive effect on lung function in children with asthma and in adults who smoke. This allele is also associated with a reduced risk of COPD in adult smokers.
doi:10.1056/NEJMoa0904006
PMCID: PMC2904064  PMID: 20018959
11.  Variants in a Novel Epidermal Collagen Gene (COL29A1) Are Associated with Atopic Dermatitis 
PLoS Biology  2007;5(9):e242.
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common chronic inflammatory skin disorder and a major manifestation of allergic disease. AD typically presents in early childhood often preceding the onset of an allergic airway disease, such as asthma or hay fever. We previously mapped a susceptibility locus for AD on Chromosome 3q21. To identify the underlying disease gene, we used a dense map of microsatellite markers and single nucleotide polymorphisms, and we detected association with AD. In concordance with the linkage results, we found a maternal transmission pattern. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the same families contribute to linkage and association. We replicated the association and the maternal effect in a large independent family cohort. A common haplotype showed strong association with AD (p = 0.000059). The associated region contained a single gene, COL29A1, which encodes a novel epidermal collagen. COL29A1 shows a specific gene expression pattern with the highest transcript levels in skin, lung, and the gastrointestinal tract, which are the major sites of allergic disease manifestation. Lack of COL29A1 expression in the outer epidermis of AD patients points to a role of collagen XXIX in epidermal integrity and function, the breakdown of which is a clinical hallmark of AD.
Author Summary
Atopic dermatitis (AD, eczema) is a common chronic inflammatory skin disorder and a major manifestation of allergic disease. Typically, AD first occurs in early childhood, often preceding the onset of allergic airways disease, such as asthma and hay fever. A family history of allergic disorders is the single strongest predictor for AD, showing that genetic factors play a major role in the disease development. We have previously mapped a disease locus for AD on Chromosome 3q21, Now we have used a dense map of microsatellite markers and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to find the underlying disease gene. We identified genetic markers in a subregion that showed association with AD, and replicated this finding in a large independent family cohort. The associated region contained a single gene, COL29A1, which encodes a novel collagen. We demonstrate that AD patients lack COL29A1 expression in the outer epidermis, implicating collagen XXIX in epidermal integrity and function. The gene expression pattern of COL29A1 in other organs, including the lung and the gut, suggests that this gene could have a role in a wider spectrum of allergic diseases and may provide a molecular link between AD and respiratory airways disease and food allergies.
The gene underlying atopic dermatitis susceptibility has been identified by gene mapping as expressing a novel collagen, whose expression is lacking in the outer epidermis of atopic dermatitis patients.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050242
PMCID: PMC1971127  PMID: 17850181

Results 1-11 (11)