Allergic disease development is affected by both genes and the environment, and epigenetic mechanisms are hypothesized to mediate these environmental effects. In this article, we discuss the link between the environment, DNA methylation and allergic disease, as well as questions of causality inherent to analyses of DNA methylation. From the practical side, we describe characteristics of allergic phenotypes and contrast different epidemiologic study designs used in epigenetic research. We examine methodological considerations, how best to conduct preprocessing and analysis of DNA methylation data sets, and the latest methods, technologies and discoveries in this rapidly advancing field. DNA methylation and other epigenetic marks are firmly entwined with allergic disease, a link that may hold the basis for future allergic disease diagnosis and treatment.
allergy; asthma; DNA methylation; environment; epigenetic
The effectiveness of intermittent montelukast for wheeze in young children is unclear. We aimed to assess whether intermittent montelukast is better than placebo for treatment of wheeze in this age group. Because copy numbers of the Sp1-binding motif in the arachidonate 5-lipoxygenase (ALOX5) gene promoter (either 5/5, 5/x, or x/x, where x does not equal 5) modifies response to montelukast in adults, we stratified by this genotype.
We did this multicentre, parallel-group, randomised, placebo-controlled trial between Oct 1, 2010, and Dec 20, 2013, at 21 primary care sites and 41 secondary care sites in England and Scotland. Children aged 10 months to 5 years with two or more wheeze episodes were allocated to either a 5/5 or 5/x+x/x ALOX5 promoter genotype stratum, then randomly assigned (1:1) via a permuted block schedule (size ten), to receive intermittent montelukast or placebo given by parents at each wheeze episode over a 12 month period. Clinical investigators and parents were masked to treatment group and genotype strata. The primary outcome was number of unscheduled medical attendances for wheezing episodes. Analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01142505.
We randomly assigned 1358 children to receive montelukast (n=669) or placebo (n=677). Consent was withdrawn for 12 (1%) children. Primary outcome data were available for 1308 (96%) children. There was no difference in unscheduled medical attendances for wheezing episodes between children in the montelukast and placebo groups (mean 2·0 [SD 2·6] vs 2·3 [2·7]; incidence rate ratio [IRR] 0·88, 95% CI: 0·77–1·01; p=0·06). Compared with placebo, unscheduled medical attendances for wheezing episodes were reduced in children given montelukast in the 5/5 stratum (2·0 [2·7] vs 2·4 [3·0]; IRR 0·80, 95% CI 0·68–0·95; p=0·01), but not in those in the 5/x+x/x stratum (2·0 [2·5] vs 2·0 [2·3]; 1·03, 0·83–1·29; p=0·79, pinteraction=0·08). We recorded one serious adverse event, which was a skin reaction in a child allocated to placebo.
Our findings show no clear benefit of intermittent montelukast in young children with wheeze. However, the 5/5 ALOX5 promoter genotype might identify a montelukast-responsive subgroup.
Medical Research Council (UK) and National Institute for Health Research.
The prevalence of asthma in girls increases after puberty. Previous studies have detected associations between sex hormones and asthma, as well as between sex hormones and T helper 2 (Th2) asthma-typical immune responses. Therefore, we hypothesized that exogenous or endogenous sex hormone exposure (represented by oral contraceptive pill (OCP) use and early menarche, respectively) are associated with DNA methylation (DNA-M) of the Th2 transcription factor gene, GATA3, in turn affecting the risk of asthma in girls, possibly in interaction with genetic variants.
Blood samples were collected from 245 female participants aged 18 years randomly selected for methylation analysis from the Isle of Wight birth cohort, UK. Information on use of OCPs, age at menarche, and concurrent asthma were assessed by questionnaire. Genome-wide DNA-M was determined using the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 beadchip. In a first stage, we tested the interaction between sex hormone exposure and genetic variants on DNA-M of specific cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) sites. In a second stage, we determined whether these CpG sites interact with genetic variants in GATA3 to explain the risk of asthma.
Interactions between OCP use and seven single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of GATA3 were analyzed for 14 CpG sites (stage 1). The interaction between OCP use and SNP rs1269486 was found to be associated with the methylation level of cg17124583 (P = 0.002, false discovery rate (FDR) adjusted P = 0.04). DNA-M of this same CpG site was also influenced by the interaction between age at menarche and rs1269486 (P = 0.0017). In stage 2, we found that cg17124583 modified the association of SNP rs422628 with asthma risk at the age of 18 years (P = 0.006, FDR adjusted P = 0.04). Subjects with genotype AG showed an increase in average risk ratio (RR) from 0.31 (95% CI: 0.10 to 0.8) to 11.65 (95% CI: 1.71 to 79.5) when methylation level increased from 0.02 to 0.12, relative to genotype AA.
A two-stage model consisting of genetic variants in the GATA3 gene, OCP use, age at menarche, and DNA-M may explain how sex hormones in women can increase the asthma prevalence after puberty.
GATA3 gene; DNA methylation; genetic variants; epigenetics; oral contraceptives; age at menarche; asthma; puberty; adolescence; single nucleotide polymorphism; CpG
Chronic cardiorespiratory disease is associated with low birthweight suggesting the importance of the developmental environment. Prenatal factors affecting fetal growth are believed important, but the underlying mechanisms are unknown. The influence of developmental programming on bronchial hyperreactivity is investigated in an animal model and evidence for comparable associations is sought in humans. Pregnant Wistar rats were fed either control or protein-restricted diets throughout pregnancy. Bronchoconstrictor responses were recorded from offspring bronchial segments. Morphometric analysis of paraffin-embedded lung sections was conducted. In a human mother-child cohort ultrasound measurements of fetal growth were related to bronchial hyperreactivity, measured at age six years using methacholine. Protein-restricted rats' offspring demonstrated greater bronchoconstriction than controls. Airway structure was not altered. Children with lesser abdominal circumference growth during 11–19 weeks' gestation had greater bronchial hyperreactivity than those with more rapid abdominal growth. Imbalanced maternal nutrition during pregnancy results in offspring bronchial hyperreactivity. Prenatal environmental influences might play a comparable role in humans.
Genetic effects on asthma of genes in the T-helper 2 (Th2) pathway may interact with epigenetic factors including DNA methylation. We hypothesized that interactions between genetic variants and methylation in genes in this pathway (IL4, IL4R, IL13, GATA3, and STAT6) influence asthma risk, that such influences are age-dependent, and that methylation of some CpG sites changes over time in accordance with asthma transition. We tested these hypotheses in subsamples of girls from a population-based birth cohort established on the Isle of Wight, UK, in 1989.
Logistic regression models were applied to test the interaction effect of DNA methylation and SNP on asthma within each of the five genes. Bootstrapping was used to assess the models identified. From 1,361 models fitted at each age of 10 and 18 years, 8 models, including 4 CpGs and 8 SNPs, showed potential associations with asthma risk. Of the 4 CpGs, methylation of cg26937798 (IL4R) and cg23943829 (IL4) changes between ages 10 and 18 (both higher at 10; P = 9.14 × 10−6 and 1.07 × 10−5, respectively).
At age 10, the odds of asthma tended to decrease as cg12405139 (GATA3) methylation increased (log-OR = −12.15; P = 0.049); this effect disappeared by age 18. At age 18, methylation of cg09791102 (IL4R) was associated with higher risk of asthma among subjects with genotype GG compared to AG (P = 0.003), increased cg26937798 methylation among subjects with rs3024685 (IL4R) genotype AA (P = 0.003) or rs8832 (IL4R) genotype GG (P = 0.01) was associated with a lower asthma risk; these CpGs had no effect at age 10. Increasing cg26937798 methylation over time possibly reduced the risk of positive asthma transition (asthma-free at age 10 → asthma at age 18; log-OR = −3.11; P = 0.069) and increased the likelihood of negative transition (asthma at age 10 → asthma-free at age 18; log-OR = 3.97; P = 0.074).
The interaction of DNA methylation and SNPs in Th2 pathway genes is likely to contribute to asthma risk. This effect may vary with age. Methylation of some CpGs changed over time, which may influence asthma transition.
Asthma risk; Asthma transition; DNA methylation and SNP interaction; Th2 pathway
Purpose of the review
Epigenetic mechanisms have the ability to alter the phenotype without changing the genetic code. The science of epigenetics has grown considerably in recent years, and future epigenetically-based treatments or prevention strategies are likely. Epigenetic associations with asthma have received growing interest because genetic and environmental factors have been unable to independently explain the etiology of asthma.
Recent findings suggest that both the environment and underlying genetic sequence variation influence DNA methylation, which in turn seems to modify the risk conferred by genetic variants for various asthma phenotypes. In particular DNA methylation may act as an archive of a variety of early developmental exposures which then can modify the risk related to genetic variants.
Current asthma treatments may control the symptoms of asthma but do not modify its natural history. Epigenetic mechanisms and novel explanatory models provide burgeoning approaches to significantly increase our understanding of the initiation and progression of asthma. This will lead to critical information to prevent or treat asthma not only in the current generation, but due to the epigenetic inheritance may also prevent asthma in future generations.
Asthma; Epigenetics; DNA methylation; methylation quantitative trait loci; modifiable genetic variants
In 1995 the Tucson Children’s Respiratory Study (TCRS) identified clinically distinct phenotypes amongst early wheezers; the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents And Children (ALSPAC) has recently re-examined these.
To validate statistically derived ALSPAC phenotypes in the Southampton Women’s Survey (SWS) using infant and 6 year lung function, and allergic sensitisation at 1, 3 and 6 years, comparing these with TCRS phenotypes.
Complete 6 year follow-up data were available for 926 children, selected from 1973 infants born to 12,579 women characterised pre-conception. 95 children had V’maxFRC and FEV0.4 measured age 5-14 weeks using rapid compression/raised volume techniques. At 6 years we performed spirometry (n=791), fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO, n=589) and methacholine challenge (n=234). Skin prick testing was performed at 12m, 3 and 6 years (n=1494, 1255, 699, respectively). Using wheeze status questionnaire data at 6m, 12m, 2, 3 and 6 years we classified children into TCRS (never, transient early, persistent, late-onset) and ALSPAC based groups (never, early, transient, intermediate-onset, late-onset, persistent).
Amongst ALSPAC groups, persistent and late-onset wheeze were associated with atopy at 3 and 6 years, whilst intermediate-onset wheeze showed earlier atopic association at 1 year; all three were associated with FeNO at 6 years. Persistent wheezers had lower infant (V’maxFRC p<0.05) and 6 year lung function (FEV1, FEV1/FVC and FEF25-75, p<0.05), whilst late and intermediate-onset wheezers showed no lung function deficits. Transient wheezers were non-atopic but showed persistent lung function deficits (V’maxFRC in infancy, FEV1 and FEF25-75 at 6 years, all p<0.05). Those who wheezed only in the first year (early phenotype) showed no lung function deficits. No associations were seen with 6 years bronchial hyper-responsiveness or infancy FEV0.4.
SWS cohort data validates the statistically derived ALSPAC 6-class model. In particular, lung function and atopy successfully differentiate persistent, late-onset and intermediate-onset wheeze, whilst the Tucson ‘transient early’ wheeze phenotype can be sub-classified into groups that reflect early lung function. Since the 4-class model fails to adequately differentiate phenotypes based on lung function and atopy, we propose that strong consideration be given to using the 6-class paradigm for longitudinal outcome work in wheezing with onset in early life.
Wheeze; asthma; phenotype; lung function; cohort; atopy
Alcohol consumption in western pregnant women is not uncommon and could be a risk factor for childhood atopic disease. However, reported alcohol intake may be unreliable, and associations are likely to be confounded.
We aimed to study the relation between prenatal alcohol exposure and atopic phenotypes in a large population-based birth cohort with the use of a Mendelian randomization approach to minimize bias and confounding.
In white mothers and children in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) we first analyzed associations between reported maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy and atopic outcomes in the offspring measured at 7 years of age (asthma, wheezing, hay fever, eczema, atopy, and total IgE). We then analyzed the relation of maternal alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH)1B genotype (rs1229984) with these outcomes (the A allele is associated with faster metabolism and reduced alcohol consumption and, among drinkers, would be expected to reduce fetal exposure to ethanol).
After controlling for confounders, reported maternal drinking in late pregnancy was negatively associated with childhood asthma and hay fever (adjusted odds ratio [OR] per category increase in intake: 0.91 [95% CI, 0.82-1.01] and 0.87 [95% CI, 0.78-0.98], respectively). However, maternal ADH1B genotype was not associated with asthma comparing carriers of A allele with persons homozygous for G allele (OR, 0.98 [95% CI, 0.66-1.47]) or hay fever (OR, 1.11 [95% CI, 0.71-1.72]), nor with any other atopic outcome.
We have found no evidence to suggest that prenatal alcohol exposure increases the risk of asthma or atopy in childhood.
Alcohol; ADH1B; Mendelian randomization; prenatal exposure; ALSPAC; pregnancy; birth cohort; asthma; atopy; ADH, Alcohol dehydrogenase; ALSPAC, Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC); GWAS, Genome Wide Association Study; PCA, Principal Components Analysis
Asthma is characterized by airflow limitation and airway reactivity (AR). Interleukin-13 (IL-13) is involved in the pathogenesis of asthma. Two functional SNPs, rs20541 and rs1800925, of the IL-13 gene (IL13) have been frequently associated with asthma-related lung functions. However, genetic variation alone does not fully explain asthma risk. DNA-methylation (DNA-M) is an epigenetic mechanism that regulates gene expression and can be influenced by both environment and genetic variants. To explore the interplay of prenatal maternal smoking, genetic variants and DNA-M, we used a two-stage model: (1) identifying cytosine phosphate guanine (CpG) sites where DNA-M is influenced by the interaction between genetic variants and maternal smoking during pregnancy (conditional methQTL (methylation quantitative trait loci)); and (2) determining the effect of the interaction between DNA-M of CpG (from stage 1) and SNPs (modifying genetic variants; modGV) on airflow limitation and AR in 245 female participants of the Isle of Wight birth cohort. DNA-M was assessed using the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip.
Six CpG sites were analyzed in stage 1. DNA-M at cg13566430 was influenced by interaction of maternal smoking during pregnancy and rs20541. In stage 2, genotype at rs1800925 interacted with DNA-M at cg13566430 significantly affecting airflow limitation (P = 0.042) and AR (P = 0.01).
Both genetic variants and environment affect DNA-M. This study supports the proposed two-stage model (methQTL and modGV) to study genetic variants, environment and DNA-M interactions in asthma-related lung function.
Asthma genetics and epigenetics; Airway reactivity; DNA methylation; IL13 gene; Lung functions; Maternal smoking during pregnancy
Airway epithelial cells provide a protective barrier against environmental particles including potential pathogens. Epithelial repair in response to tissue damage is abnormal in asthmatic airway epithelium in comparison to the repair of normal epithelium after damage. The complex mechanisms coordinating the regulation of the processes involved in wound repair requires the phased expression of networks of genes. Small non-coding RNA molecules termed microRNAs (miRNAs) play a critical role in such coordinated regulation of gene expression. We aimed to establish if the phased expression of specific miRNAs is correlated with the repair of mechanically induced damage to the epithelium.
To investigate the possible involvement of miRNA in epithelial repair, we analyzed miRNA expression profiles during epithelial repair in a cell culture model using TaqMan-based quantitative real-time PCR in a TaqMan Low Density Array format. The expression of 754 miRNA genes at seven time points in a 48-hour period during the wound repair process was profiled using the bronchial epithelial cell line 16HBE14o- growing in monolayer.
The expression levels of numerous miRNAs were found to be altered during the wound repair process. These miRNA genes were clustered into 3 different patterns of expression that correlate with the further regulation of several biological pathways involved in wound repair. Moreover, it was observed that expression of some miRNA genes were significantly altered only at one time point, indicating their involvement in a specific stage of the epithelial wound repair.
In summary, miRNA expression is modulated during the normal repair processes in airway epithelium in vitro suggesting a potential role in regulation of wound repair.
Epithelial cells; Wound repair; miRNA; Profiling; Cluster analysis; Pathway analysis
Allergy is a complex disease that is likely to involve dysregulated CD4+ T cell activation. Here we propose a novel methodology to gain insight into how coordinated behaviour emerges between disease-dysregulated pathways in response to pathophysiological stimuli. Using peripheral blood mononuclear cells of allergic rhinitis patients and controls cultured with and without pollen allergens, we integrate CD4+ T cell gene expression from microarray data and genetic markers of allergic sensitisation from GWAS data at the pathway level using enrichment analysis; implicating the complement system in both cellular and systemic response to pollen allergens. We delineate a novel disease network linking T cell activation to the complement system that is significantly enriched for genes exhibiting correlated gene expression and protein-protein interactions, suggesting a tight biological coordination that is dysregulated in the disease state in response to pollen allergen but not to diluent. This novel disease network has high predictive power for the gene and protein expression of the Th2 cytokine profile (IL-4, IL-5, IL-10, IL-13) and of the Th2 master regulator (GATA3), suggesting its involvement in the early stages of CD4+ T cell differentiation. Dissection of the complement system gene expression identifies 7 genes specifically associated with atopic response to pollen, including C1QR1, CFD, CFP, ITGB2, ITGAX and confirms the role of C3AR1 and C5AR1. Two of these genes (ITGB2 and C3AR1) are also implicated in the network linking complement system to T cell activation, which comprises 6 differentially expressed genes. C3AR1 is also significantly associated with allergic sensitisation in GWAS data.
Lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer death and disease burden in many countries. Understanding of the biological pathways involved in lung cancer aetiology is required to identify key biomolecules that could be of significant clinical value, either as predictive, prognostic or diagnostic markers, or as targets for the development of novel therapies to treat this disease, in addition to smoking avoidance strategies. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have enabled significant progress in the past 5 years in investigating genetic susceptibility to lung cancer. Large scale, multi-cohort GWAS of mainly Caucasian, smoking, populations have identified strong associations for lung cancer mapped to chromosomal regions 15q [nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunits: CHRNA3, CHRNA5], 5p (TERT-CLPTM1L locus) and 6p (BAT3-MSH5). Some studies in Asian populations of smokers have found similar risk loci, whereas GWAS in never smoking Asian females have identified associations in other chromosomal regions, e.g., 3q (TP63), that are distinct from smoking-related lung cancer risk loci. GWAS of smoking behaviour have identified risk loci for smoking quantity at 15q (similar genes to lung cancer susceptibility: CHRNA3, CHRNA5) and 19q (CYP2A6). Other genes have been mapped for smoking initiation and smoking cessation. In chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a known risk factor for lung cancer, GWAS in large cohorts have also found CHRNA3 and CHRNA5 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) mapping at 15q as risk loci, as well as other regions at 4q31 (HHIP), 4q24 (FAM13A) and 5q (HTR4). The overlap in risk loci between lung cancer, smoking behaviour and COPD may be due to the effects of nicotine addiction; however, more work needs to be undertaken to explore the potential direct effects of nicotine and its metabolites in gene-environment interaction in these phenotypes. Goals of future genetic susceptibility studies of lung cancer should focus on refining the strongest risk loci in a wide range of populations with lung cancer, and integrating other clinical and biomarker information, in order to achieve the aim of personalised therapy for lung cancer.
Lung cancer; genetics; pulmonary disease; chronic obstructive; genome-wide association study (GWAS)
Background and objective: Dysregulation of respiratory mucins, MUC5AC in particular, has been implicated in respiratory disease and MUC5AC expression is up-regulated in response to environmental challenges and inflammatory mediators. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of genetic variation on susceptibility to common respiratory conditions.
Methods: The association of MUC5AC and the closely linked genes MUC2 and MUC5B with respiratory outcomes was tested in the MRC National Survey of Health and Development, a longitudinal birth cohort of men and women born in 1946. Also examined were the functional variants of the genes encoding inflammatory mediators, IL13, IL1B, IL1RN, TNFA and ERBB1, for which there is a likely influence on MUC5AC expression and were explored potential gene-gene interactions with these inflammatory mediators.
Results: Statistically significant associations between the 3'ter MUC5AC simple nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs1132440 and various non-independent respiratory outcomes (bronchitis, wheeze, asthma, hay fever) were reported while the adjacent loci show slight (but largely non-statistically significant) differences, presumably reflective of linkage disequilibrium (allelic association) across the region. A novel association between bronchitis and a non-synonymous functional ERBB1 SNP, rs2227983 (aka epidermal growth factor receptor:R497K, R521K) is also reported and evidence presented of interaction between MUC5AC and ERBB1 and between MUC5AC and IL1RN with respect to bronchitis. The ERBB1 result suggests a clear mechanism for a biological interaction in which the allelic variants of epidermal growth factor receptor differentially affect mucin expression.
Conclusions: The MUC5AC association and the interactions with inflammatory mediators suggest that genetically determined differences in MUC5AC expression alter susceptibility to respiratory disease.
SUMMARY AT A GLANCE
This longitudinal cohort study shows occurrence of the common respiratory conditions bronchitis, wheeze, asthma and hay fever to be associated with genetic variation in a mucin gene, MUC5AC. Functional variation in the epidermal growth factor receptor (epidermal growth factor receptor encoded by ERBB1) is also associated with bronchitis and modulates the MUC5AC effect.
airway epithelium; asthma; genetics; inflammation; respiratory function test
Asthma genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified several asthma susceptibility genes with confidence; however the relative contribution of these genetic variants or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to clinical endpoints (as opposed to disease diagnosis) remains largely unknown. Thus the aim of this study was to firstly bridge this gap in knowledge and secondly investigate whether these SNPs or those that are in linkage disequilibrium are likely to be functional candidates with respect to regulation of gene expression, using reported data from the ENCODE project.
Eleven of the key SNPs identified in eight loci from recent asthma GWAS were evaluated for association with asthma and clinical outcomes, including percent predicted FEV1, bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) to methacholine, severity defined by British Thoracic Society steps and positive response to skin prick test, using the family based association test additive model in a well characterised UK cohort consisting of 370 families with at least two asthmatic children.
GSDMB SNP rs2305480 (Ser311Pro) was associated with asthma diagnosis (p = 8.9×10-4), BHR (p = 8.2×10-4) and severity (p = 1.5×10-4) with supporting evidence from a second GSDMB SNP rs11078927 (intronic). SNPs evaluated in IL33, IL18R1, IL1RL1, SMAD3, IL2RB, PDE4D, CRB1 and RAD50 did not show association with any phenotype tested when corrected for multiple testing. Analysis using ENCODE data provides further insight into the functional relevance of these SNPs.
Our results provide further support for the role of GSDMB SNPs in determining multiple asthma related phenotypes in childhood asthma including associations with lung function and disease severity.
Asthma; ENCODE; eQTL; GWAS; Clinical endpoints
Genetic variation within GSTM2-5 genes may interfere with detoxification of environmental compounds, thereby having a detrimental effect on lung function following exposures such as tobacco smoke. We aim to investigate the influence of variants and associated methylation in the GSTM gene cluster with changes in lung function growth during adolescence.
Growth in forced expiratory volume (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), and change in FEV1/FVC ratio measures were obtained from children in the Isle of Wight birth cohort at ages 10 and 18. Illumina GoldenGate assays were used to genotype 10 tagging polymorphisms from GSTM2 (rs574344 and rs12024479), GSTM3 (rs1537236, rs7483, and rs10735234), GSTM4 (rs668413, rs560018, and rs506008), and GSTM5 (rs929166 and rs11807) genes. Diplotypes were generated in the software Phase 3.0.2. DNA methylation was measured in over 450,000 CpG sites using the Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip (Illumina 450K) in a subsample of 245 18-year olds from the Isle of Wight birth cohort. Gender, age, in utero smoke exposure, secondhand smoke exposure (SHS), and current smoking status were assessed via questionnaire; smoke exposures were validated with urine cotinine. We used linear mixed models to estimate the effect of GSTM diplotypes on lung function across time and examine interactions with tobacco smoke.
1,121 (77%) out of 1,456 children had information on lung function at ages 10 or 18. After adjustment for false discovery rate, one diplotype in GSTM3 had a detrimental effect on changes in FEV1 (p=0.03), and another diplotype in GSTM3 reduced FVC (p=0.02) over time. No significant interactions with smoking were identified. SHS significantly modified the relationship between diplotypes and methylation levels in one GSTM2 CpG site; however, this site did not predict lung function outcomes at age 18. Joint effects of GSTM loci and CpG sites located within these loci on adolescent lung growth were detected.
Diplotypes within GSTM2-5 genes are associated with lung function growth across adolescence, but do not appear to modify the effect of tobacco smoke exposures on adolescent lung growth. Interactions between DNA methylation and diplotypes should be taken into account to gain further understanding on lung function in adolescence.
Smoking; Lung function; Diplotype; Human; Longitudinal study; Epigenetics; Methylation quantitative trait loci
Parent of origin effect is important in understanding the genetic basis of childhood allergic diseases and to improve our ability to identify high risk children.
To investigate parent of origin effect in childhood allergic diseases.
The Isle of Wight Birth Cohort (n=1,456) has been examined at 1, 2, 4, 10 and 18-years. Information on prevalence of asthma, eczema, rhinitis and environmental factors was obtained using validated questionnaires. Skin prick tests were carried out at ages 4, 10 and 18 year, and total IgE at 10 and 18 years. Parental history of allergic disease was assessed soon after the birth of the child when maternal IgE was also measured. Prevalence ratios (PR) and their 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated, applying log-linear models, adjusted for confounding variables.
When stratified for sex of the child, maternal asthma was associated with asthma in girls [PR:1.91 (CI:1.34–2.72), p=0.0003], but not in boys [PR:1.29 (CI:0.85–1.96), p=0.23), while paternal asthma was associated with asthma in boys [PR:1.99 (CI:1.42–2.79), p<0.0001], but not in girls [PR: 1.03 (0.59–1.80) p=0.92). Maternal eczema increased the risk of eczema in girls [PR: 1.92 (CI: 1.37–2.68); p=0.0001] only, while paternal eczema did the same for boys (PR: 2.07 (CI:1.32–3.25); P=0.002). Similar trends were observed when the effect of maternal and paternal allergic disease was assessed for childhood atopy and when maternal total IgE was related to total IgE in children at age 10 and 18 years.
The current study indicates a sex dependent association of parental allergic conditions with childhood allergies; maternal allergy increasing the risk in girls and paternal allergy in boys. This has implications for childhood allergy prediction and prevention.
maternal; paternal; sex; cohort; parent of origin; atopy; asthma; eczema; rhinitis; allergy; IgE
Eczema is a prevalent skin disease that is mainly characterized by systemic deviation of immune response and defective epidermal barrier. Th2 cytokines, such as IL-13 and transcription factor STAT6 are key elements in the inflammatory response that characterize allergic disorders, including eczema. Previous genetic association studies showed inconsistent results for the association of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with eczema. Our aim was to investigate whether SNPs in IL13 and STAT6 genes, which share a biological pathway, have an interactive effect on eczema risk.
Data from two independent population-based studies were analyzed, namely the Isle of Wight birth cohort study (IOW; n = 1,456) and for the purpose of replication the Swansea PAPA (Poblogaeth Asthma Prifysgol Abertawe; n = 1,445) cross-sectional study. Log-binomial regressions were applied to (i) account for the interaction between IL13 (rs20541) and STAT6 (rs1059513) polymorphisms and (ii) estimate the combined effect, in terms of risk ratios (RRs), of both risk factors on the risk of eczema.
Under a dominant genetic model, the interaction term [IL13 (rs20541) × STAT6 (rs1059513)] was statistically significant in both studies (IOW: adjusted Pinteraction = 0.046; PAPA: Pinteraction = 0.037). The assessment of the combined effect associated with having risk genotypes in both SNPs yielded a 1.52-fold increased risk of eczema in the IOW study (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.05 – 2.20; P = 0.028) and a 2.01-fold higher risk of eczema (95% CI: 1.29 – 3.12; P = 0.002) in the PAPA study population.
Our study adds to the current knowledge of genetic susceptibility by demonstrating for the first time an interactive effect between SNPs in IL13 (rs20541) and STAT6 (rs1059513) on the occurrence of eczema in two independent samples. Findings of this report further support the emerging evidence that points toward the existence of genetic effects that occur via complex networks involving gene-gene interactions (epistasis).
Eczema; Gene-gene Interaction; Epistasis; STAT6; IL13; Genetic Association Study
Birth weight within the normal range is associated with a variety of adult-onset diseases, but the mechanisms behind these associations are poorly understood1. Previous genome-wide association studies identified a variant in the ADCY5 gene associated both with birth weight and type 2 diabetes, and a second variant, near CCNL1, with no obvious link to adult traits2. In an expanded genome-wide association meta-analysis and follow-up study (up to 69,308 individuals of European descent from 43 studies), we have now extended the number of genome-wide significant loci to seven, accounting for a similar proportion of variance to maternal smoking. Five of the loci are known to be associated with other phenotypes: ADCY5 and CDKAL1 with type 2 diabetes; ADRB1 with adult blood pressure; and HMGA2 and LCORL with adult height. Our findings highlight genetic links between fetal growth and postnatal growth and metabolism.
To determine whether DNA methylation (DNA-M) of the leptin receptor genotype (LEPR/LEPROT) links gestational smoking and leptin serum levels and BMI later in life, we focused on female offspring, 18 years of age, from the Isle of Wight Birth Cohort (IOWBC). Leptin binds to the leptin receptor encoded by the LEPR/LEPROT genotype. Using general linear models, we tested a two-stage model. First, we investigated whether single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) acting as methylation quantitative trait loci (methQTLs) depending on gestational smoking were related to differentially methylated cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) sites. In stage 2, we tested whether the selected CpG sites, in interaction with other SNPs (modifiable genetic variants, modGV), are associated with serum leptin and BMI (stage 2). Children from the IOWBC were followed from birth to age 18. Information on gestational smoking was gathered upon delivery. SNPs tagging LEPR and LEPROT genes were genotyped. Data on LEPR/LEPROT DNA-M and leptin were obtained from blood samples drawn at age 18; to determine BMI, height and weight were ascertained. Blood samples were provided by 238 girls. Of the 21 CpG sites, interactions between gestational smoking and SNPs were detected for 16 CpGs. Methylation of seven of the 16 CpGs were, in interaction with modGVs, associated with leptin levels at age 18 years. Two CpGs survived a multiple testing penalty and were also associated with BMI. This two-stage model may explain why maternal smoking has a long-term effect on leptin levels and BMI in girls at age 18 years.
LEPR; LEPROT; leptin; CpG sites; in utero smoking exposure; rs12059300; BMI
Gene–lifestyle interactions have been suggested to contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. Glucose levels 2 h after a standard 75-g glucose challenge are used to diagnose diabetes and are associated with both genetic and lifestyle factors. However, whether these factors interact to determine 2-h glucose levels is unknown. We meta-analyzed single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) × BMI and SNP × physical activity (PA) interaction regression models for five SNPs previously associated with 2-h glucose levels from up to 22 studies comprising 54,884 individuals without diabetes. PA levels were dichotomized, with individuals below the first quintile classified as inactive (20%) and the remainder as active (80%). BMI was considered a continuous trait. Inactive individuals had higher 2-h glucose levels than active individuals (β = 0.22 mmol/L [95% CI 0.13–0.31], P = 1.63 × 10−6). All SNPs were associated with 2-h glucose (β = 0.06–0.12 mmol/allele, P ≤ 1.53 × 10−7), but no significant interactions were found with PA (P > 0.18) or BMI (P ≥ 0.04). In this large study of gene–lifestyle interaction, we observed no interactions between genetic and lifestyle factors, both of which were associated with 2-h glucose. It is perhaps unlikely that top loci from genome-wide association studies will exhibit strong subgroup-specific effects, and may not, therefore, make the best candidates for the study of interactions.
The occurrence of asthma is weakly explained by known genetic variants. Epigenetic marks, DNA methylation (DNA-M) in particular, are considered to add to the explanation of asthma. However, no etiological model has yet been developed that integrates genetic variants and DNA-M. To explore a new model, we focused on one asthma candidate gene, the IL-4 receptor (IL4R). We hypothesized that genetic variants of IL4R in interaction with DNA-M at cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) sites jointly alter the risk of asthma during adolescence. Blood samples were collected at age 18 years from 245 female cohort participants randomly selected for methylation analysis from a birth cohort (n = 1,456, Isle of Wight, UK). Genome-wide DNA-M was assessed using the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip.
Thirteen single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and twelve CpG sites of IL4R gene were analyzed. Based on linkage disequilibrium and association with asthma, eight SNPs and one CpG site were selected for further analyses. Of the twelve CpG sites in the IL4R gene, only methylation levels of cg09791102 showed an association with asthma at age 18 years (Wilcoxon test: P = 0.01). Log-linear models were used to estimate risk ratios (RRs) for asthma adjusting for uncorrelated SNPs within the IL4R gene and covariates. Testing for interaction between the eight SNPs and the methylation levels of cg09791102 on the risk for asthma at age 18 years, we identified the statistically significant interaction term of SNP rs3024685 × methylation levels of cg09791102 (P = 0.002; after adjusting for false discovery rate). A total of 84 participants had methylation levels ≤0.88, 112 participants between 0.89 and 0.90, and 35 between 0.91 and 0.92. For the SNP rs3024685 (‘CC’ vs. ‘TT’) at methylation levels of ≤0.85, 0.86, 0.90, 0.91, and 0.92, the RRs were 0.01, 0.04, 4.65, 14.76, 14.90, respectively (interaction effect, P = 0.0003).
Adjusting for multiple testing, our results suggest that DNA-M modulates the risk of asthma related to genetic variants in the IL4R gene. The strong interaction of one SNP and DNA-M is encouraging and provides a novel model of how a joint effect of genetic variants and DNA-M can explain occurrence of asthma.
Interleukin-4 receptor gene; DNA methylation; Genetic variants; Asthma; Epigenetics
Polymorphisms spanning genes involved in the production of leukotriene B4 (LTB4) e.g. ALOX5AP and LTA4H are associated with asthma susceptibility, suggesting a role for LTB4 in disease. The contribution of LTB4receptor polymorphism is currently unknown. The aim of this study was to characterise the genes for the two pivotal LTB4 receptors, LTB4R1 and LTB4R2 in lung tissue and determine if polymorphisms spanning these genes are associated with asthma and disease severity.
Rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE) was used to characterise the LTB4R1 and LTB4R2 gene structure in lung. The LTB4R1/2 locus on chromosome 14q11.2 was screened for polymorphic variation. Six LTB4R single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were genotyped in 370 Caucasian asthma families and 299 Adult Asthma Individuals (n=1877 total) and were evaluated for association with asthma and severity (BTS) outcome measures using Family Based Association Test, linear regression and chi square.
LTB4R1 has complex mRNA arrangement including multiple 5′-untranslated exons, suggesting additional levels of regulation. Three potential promoter regions across the LTB4R1/2 locus were identified with some airway cell specificity. 22 SNPs (MAF>0.01) were validated across the LTB4R locus in the Caucasian population. LTB4R1 and LTB4R2 SNPs were not associated with asthma susceptibility, FEV1 or severity.
LTB4R1 and LTB4R2 shows splice variation in the 5′-untranslated region and multiple promoter regions. The functional significance of this is yet to be determined. Both receptor genes were shown to be polymorphic. LTB4R polymorphisms do not appear to be susceptibility markers for the development of asthma in Caucasian subjects.
Association; Asthma; Family based association test; Leukotriene; Leukotriene B4 receptor; RACE; Severity
Asthma is a common disease of children with a complex genetic origin. Understanding the genetic basis of asthma susceptibility will allow disease prediction and risk stratification.
We sought to identify asthma susceptibility genes in children.
A nested case-control genetic association study of children of Caucasian European ancestry from a birth cohort was conducted. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, n=116,024) were genotyped in pools of DNA samples from cohort children with physician-diagnosed asthma (n=112) and normal controls (n=165). A genomic region containing the ATPAF1 gene was significantly associated with asthma. Additional SNPs within this region were genotyped in individual samples from the same children and in eight independent study populations consisting of Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, or other ancestries. SNPs were also genotyped or imputed in two consortia control populations. ATPAF1 expression was measured in bronchial biopsies from asthmatics and controls.
Asthma was associated with a cluster of SNPs and SNP haplotypes containing the ATPAF1 gene with two SNPs achieving significance at a genome-wide level (p=2.26×10−5 to 2.2×10−8). Asthma severity was also associated with SNPs and haplotypes in the primary population. SNP and/or gene-level associations were confirmed in the four non-Hispanic populations. Haplotype associations were confirmed in the non-Hispanic populations (p=0.045 to 0.0009). ATPAF1 total RNA expression was significantly (p<0.01) higher in bronchial biopsies from asthmatics than controls.
Genetic variation in the ATPAF1 gene predisposes children of different ancestry to asthma.
asthma; ATPAF1; children; gene; genetic; genome-wide association; purinergic; respiratory; single nucleotide polymorphism; SNP
Pulmonary function measures reflect respiratory health and predict mortality, and are used in the diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We tested genome-wide association with the forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and the ratio of FEV1 to forced vital capacity (FVC) in 48,201 individuals of European ancestry, with follow-up of top associations in up to an additional 46,411 individuals. We identified new regions showing association (combined P<5×10−8) with pulmonary function, in or near MFAP2, TGFB2, HDAC4, RARB, MECOM (EVI1), SPATA9, ARMC2, NCR3, ZKSCAN3, CDC123, C10orf11, LRP1, CCDC38, MMP15, CFDP1, and KCNE2. Identification of these 16 new loci may provide insight into the molecular mechanisms regulating pulmonary function and into molecular targets for future therapy to alleviate reduced lung function.