Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic inflammatory skin disease. Here, we show that phospholipase C-β3 (PLC-β3)-deficient mice spontaneously develop AD-like skin lesions and more severe allergen-induced dermatitis than wild-type mice. Mast cells were required for both AD models and remarkably increased in the skin of Plcb3−/− mice because of the increased Stat5 and reduced SHP-1 activities. Mast cell-specific deletion of Stat5 gene ameliorated allergen-induced dermatitis, whereas that of Shp1 gene encoding Stat5-inactivating SHP-1 exacerbated it. PLC-β3 regulates the expression of periostin in fibroblasts and TSLP in keratinocytes, two proteins critically involved in AD pathogenesis. Furthermore, polymorphisms in PLCB3, SHP1, STAT5A, and STAT5B genes were associated with human AD. Mast cell expression of PLC-β3 was inversely correlated with that of phospho-STAT5, and increased mast cells with high levels of phospho-STAT5 were found in lesional skin of some AD patients. Therefore, STAT5 regulatory mechanisms in mast cells are important for AD pathogenesis.
Characterization of genetic admixture of populations in the Americas and the Caribbean is of interest for anthropological, epidemiological, and historical reasons. Asthma has a higher prevalence and is more severe in populations with a high African component. Association of African ancestry with asthma has been demonstrated. We estimated admixture proportions of samples from six trihybrid populations of African descent and determined the relationship between African ancestry and asthma and total serum IgE levels (tIgE). We genotyped 237 ancestry informative markers in asthmatics and nonasthmatic controls from Barbados (190/277), Jamaica (177/529), Brazil (40/220), Colombia (508/625), African Americans from New York (207/171), and African Americans from Baltimore/Washington, D.C. (625/757). We estimated individual ancestries and evaluated genetic stratification using Structure and principal component analysis. Association of African ancestry and asthma and tIgE was evaluated by regression analysis. Mean SD African ancestry ranged from 0.76 ± 0.10 among Barbadians to 0.33 ± 0.13 in Colombians. The European component varied from 0.14 ± 0.05 among Jamaicans and Barbadians to 0.26 ± 0.08 among Colombians. African ancestry was associated with risk for asthma in Colombians (odds ratio (OR) = 4.5, P = 0.001) Brazilians (OR = 136.5, P = 0.003), and African Americans of New York (OR: 4.7; P = 0.040). African ancestry was also associated with higher tIgE levels among Colombians (β = 1.3, P = 0.04), Barbadians (β = 3.8, P = 0.03), and Brazilians (β = 1.6, P = 0.03). Our findings indicate that African ancestry can account for, at least in part, the association between asthma and its associated trait, tIgE levels.
African; asthma; ancestry
Common variants at many loci have been robustly associated with asthma but explain little of the overall genetic risk. Here we investigate the role of rare (<1%) and low-frequency (1–5%) variants using the Illumina HumanExome BeadChip array in 4,794 asthma cases, 4,707 non-asthmatic controls and 590 case–parent trios representing European Americans, African Americans/African Caribbeans and Latinos. Our study reveals one low-frequency missense mutation in the GRASP gene that is associated with asthma in the Latino sample (P=4.31 × 10−6; OR=1.25; MAF=1.21%) and two genes harbouring functional variants that are associated with asthma in a gene-based analysis: GSDMB at the 17q12–21 asthma locus in the Latino and combined samples (P=7.81 × 10−8 and 4.09 × 10−8, respectively) and MTHFR in the African ancestry sample (P=1.72 × 10−6). Our results suggest that associations with rare and low-frequency variants are ethnic specific and not likely to explain a significant proportion of the ‘missing heritability’ of asthma.
Common variants account for only a small amount of the heritable risk for developing asthma. Using a meta-analysis approach, Igartua et al. identify one low-frequency missense mutation and two genes with functional variants that are associated with asthma, but only in specific ethnic groups.
Lung function is a long-term predictor of mortality and morbidity.
We sought to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with lung function.
We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), and FEV1/FVC in 1,144 Hutterites aged 6–89 years, who are members of a founder population of European descent. We performed least absolute shrinkage and selection operation (LASSO) regression to select the minimum set of SNPs that best predict FEV1/FVC in the Hutterites and used the GRAIL algorithm to mine the Gene Ontology database for evidence of functional connections between genes near the predictive SNPs.
Our GWAS identified significant associations between FEV1/FVC and SNPs at the THSD4-UACA-TLE3 locus on chromosome 15q23 (P = 5.7x10−8 ~ 3.4x10−9). Nine SNPs at or near four additional loci had P-values < 10−5 with FEV1/FVC. There were only two SNPs with P-values < 10−5 for FEV1 or FVC. We found nominal levels of significance with SNPs at 9 of the 27 previously reported loci associated with lung function measures. Among a predictive set of 80 SNPs, six loci were identified that had a significant degree of functional connectivity (GRAIL P < 0.05), including three clusters of β-defensin genes, two chemokine genes (CCL18 and CXCL12), and TNFRSF13B.
This study identifies genome-wide significant associations and replicates results of previous GWAS. Multimarker modeling implicated for the first time common variation in genes involved in anti-microbial immunity in airway mucosa influences lung function.
FEV1/FVC; FEV1; FVC; GWAS; LASSO regression; GRAIL
Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is both a marker and mediator of allergic inflammation. Despite reported differences in serum total IgE levels by race-ethnicity, African American and Latino individuals have not been well represented in genetic studies of total IgE.
To identify the genetic predictors of serum total IgE levels.
We used genome wide association (GWA) data from 4,292 individuals (2,469 African Americans, 1,564 European Americans, and 259 Latinos) in the EVE Asthma Genetics Consortium. Tests for association were performed within each cohort by race-ethnic group (i.e., African American, Latino, and European American) and asthma status. The resulting p-values were meta-analyzed accounting for sample size and direction of effect. Top single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) associations from the meta-analysis were reassessed in six additional cohorts comprising 5,767 individuals.
We identified 10 unique regions where the combined association statistic was associated with total serum IgE levels (P-value <5.0×10−6) and the minor allele frequency was ≥5% in two or more population groups. Variant rs9469220, corresponding to HLA-DQB1, was the most significantly associated SNP with serum total IgE levels when assessed in both the replication cohorts and the discovery and replication sets combined (P-value = 0.007 and 2.45×10−7, respectively). In addition, findings from earlier GWA studies were also validated in the current meta-analysis.
This meta-analysis independently identified a variant near HLA-DQB1 as a predictor of total serum IgE in multiple race-ethnic groups. This study also extends and confirms the findings of earlier GWA analyses in African American and Latino individuals.
meta-analysis; genome wide association study; total immunoglobulin E; race-ethnicity; continental population groups
Accelerated lung function decline is a key COPD phenotype; however its genetic control remains largely unknown.
We performed a genome-wide association study using the Illumina Human660W-Quad v.1_A BeadChip. Generalized estimation equations were used to assess genetic contributions to lung function decline over a 5-year period in 4,048 European-American Lung Health Study participants with largely mild COPD. Genotype imputation was performed using reference HapMap II data. To validate regions meeting genome-wide significance, replication of top SNPs was attempted in independent cohorts. Three genes (TMEM26, ANK3 and FOXA1) within the regions of interest were selected for tissue expression studies using immunohistochemistry.
Measurements and Main Results
Two intergenic SNPs (rs10761570, rs7911302) on chromosome 10 and one SNP on chromosome 14 (rs177852) met genome-wide significance after Bonferroni. Further support for the chromosome 10 region was obtained by imputation, the most significantly associated imputed SNPs (rs10761571, rs7896712) being flanked by observed markers rs10761570 and rs7911302. Results were not replicated in four general population cohorts or a smaller cohort of subjects with moderate to severe COPD; however, we show novel expression of genes near regions of significantly associated SNPS, including TMEM26 and FOXA1 in airway epithelium and lung parenchyma, and ANK3 in alveolar macrophages. Levels of expression were associated with lung function and COPD status.
We identified two novel regions associated with lung function decline in mild COPD. Genes within these regions were expressed in relevant lung cells and their expression related to airflow limitation suggesting they may represent novel candidate genes for COPD susceptibility.
COPD; lung function decline; GWAS; genome wide association; genes; polymorphisms
Asthma is a complex disease characterized by striking ethnic disparities not explained entirely by environmental, social, cultural, or economic factors. Of the limited genetic studies performed on populations of African descent, notable differences in susceptibility allele frequencies have been observed.
To test the hypothesis that some genes may contribute to the profound disparities in asthma.
We performed a genome-wide association study in two independent populations of African ancestry (935 African American asthma cases and controls from the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area, and 929 African Caribbean asthmatics and their family members from Barbados) to identify single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with asthma.
Meta-analysis combining these two African-ancestry populations yielded three SNPs with a combined P-value <10-5 in genes of potential biological relevance to asthma and allergic disease: rs10515807, mapping to alpha-1B-adrenergic receptor (ADRA1B) gene on chromosome 5q33 (3.57×10-6); rs6052761, mapping to prion-related protein (PRNP) on chromosome 20pter-p12 (2.27×10-6); and rs1435879, mapping to dipeptidyl peptidase 10 (DPP10) on chromosome 2q12.3-q14.2. The generalizability of these findings was tested in family and case-control panels of UK and German origin, respectively, but none of the associations observed in the African groups were replicated in these European studies.
Evidence for association was also examined in four additional case-control studies of African Americans; however, none of the SNPs implicated in the discovery population were replicated. This study illustrates the complexity of identifying true associations for a complex and heterogeneous disease such as asthma in admixed populations, especially populations of African descent.
Asthma; GWAS; ADRA1B; PRNP; DPP10; African ancestry; ethnicity; polymorphism; genetic association
Allergic rhinitis is a common disease whose genetic basis is incompletely explained. We report an integrated genomic analysis of allergic rhinitis.
We performed genome wide association studies (GWAS) of allergic rhinitis in 5633 ethnically diverse North American subjects. Next, we profiled gene expression in disease-relevant tissue (peripheral blood CD4+ lymphocytes) collected from subjects who had been genotyped. We then integrated the GWAS and gene expression data using expression single nucleotide (eSNP), coexpression network, and pathway approaches to identify the biologic relevance of our GWAS.
GWAS revealed ethnicity-specific findings, with 4 genome-wide significant loci among Latinos and 1 genome-wide significant locus in the GWAS meta-analysis across ethnic groups. To identify biologic context for these results, we constructed a coexpression network to define modules of genes with similar patterns of CD4+ gene expression (coexpression modules) that could serve as constructs of broader gene expression. 6 of the 22 GWAS loci with P-value ≤ 1x10−6 tagged one particular coexpression module (4.0-fold enrichment, P-value 0.0029), and this module also had the greatest enrichment (3.4-fold enrichment, P-value 2.6 × 10−24) for allergic rhinitis-associated eSNPs (genetic variants associated with both gene expression and allergic rhinitis). The integrated GWAS, coexpression network, and eSNP results therefore supported this coexpression module as an allergic rhinitis module. Pathway analysis revealed that the module was enriched for mitochondrial pathways (8.6-fold enrichment, P-value 4.5 × 10−72).
Our results highlight mitochondrial pathways as a target for further investigation of allergic rhinitis mechanism and treatment. Our integrated approach can be applied to provide biologic context for GWAS of other diseases.
Genome-wide association study; Allergic rhinitis; Coexpression network; Expression single-nucleotide polymorphism; Coexpression module; Pathway; Mitochondria; Hay fever; Allergy
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified numerous loci influencing cross-sectional lung function, but less is known about genes influencing longitudinal change in lung function.
We performed GWAS of the rate of change in forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1) in 14 longitudinal, population-based cohort studies comprising 27,249 adults of European ancestry using linear mixed effects model and combined cohort-specific results using fixed effect meta-analysis to identify novel genetic loci associated with longitudinal change in lung function. Gene expression analyses were subsequently performed for identified genetic loci. As a secondary aim, we estimated the mean rate of decline in FEV1 by smoking pattern, irrespective of genotypes, across these 14 studies using meta-analysis.
The overall meta-analysis produced suggestive evidence for association at the novel IL16/STARD5/TMC3 locus on chromosome 15 (P = 5.71 × 10-7). In addition, meta-analysis using the five cohorts with ≥3 FEV1 measurements per participant identified the novel ME3 locus on chromosome 11 (P = 2.18 × 10-8) at genome-wide significance. Neither locus was associated with FEV1 decline in two additional cohort studies. We confirmed gene expression of IL16, STARD5, and ME3 in multiple lung tissues. Publicly available microarray data confirmed differential expression of all three genes in lung samples from COPD patients compared with controls. Irrespective of genotypes, the combined estimate for FEV1 decline was 26.9, 29.2 and 35.7 mL/year in never, former, and persistent smokers, respectively.
In this large-scale GWAS, we identified two novel genetic loci in association with the rate of change in FEV1 that harbor candidate genes with biologically plausible functional links to lung function.
Interferon regulatory factor 2 (IRF2) is a member of a family of transcriptional factors involved in the modulation of interferon induced immune responses to viral infection. To test whether genetic variants in IRF2 predict risk of AD and ADEH, we genotyped 78 IRF2 tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in both European American (n=435) and African American (n = 339) populations. Significant associations were observed between AD and two SNPs (rs793814, P = 0.007, odds ratio (OR) = 0.52; rs3756094, P = 0.037, OR = 0.66) among European Americans and one SNP (rs3775572, P = 0.016, OR = 0.46) among African Americans. Significant associations were also observed between ADEH and five SNPs (P = 0.049-0.022) among European Americans. The association with ADEH was further strengthened by haplotype analyses, wherein a 5-SNP (CAGGA) haplotype showed the strongest association with ADEH (P = 0.0008). Eight IRF2 SNPs were significantly associated with IFNγ production post-herpes simplex virus (HSV) stimulation (P = 0.048-0.0008), including an AD-associated SNP (rs13139310, P = 0.008). Our findings suggest distinct markers in IRF2 may be associated with AD and ADEH, which may depend upon ethnic ancestry, and genetic variants in IRF2 may contribute to an abnormal immune response to HSV.
Smoking while pregnant is associated with a myriad of negative health outcomes in the child. Some of the detrimental effects may be due to epigenetic modifications, although few studies have investigated this hypothesis in detail.
To characterize site-specific epigenetic modifications conferred by prenatal smoking exposure within asthmatic children.
Using Illumina HumanMethylation27 microarrays, we estimated the degree of methylation at 27,578 distinct DNA sequences located primarily in gene promoters using whole blood DNA samples from the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) subset of Asthma BRIDGE childhood asthmatics (n = 527) ages 5–12 with prenatal smoking exposure data available. Using beta-regression, we screened loci for differential methylation related to prenatal smoke exposure, adjusting for gender, age and clinical site, and accounting for multiple comparisons by FDR.
Of 27,578 loci evaluated, 22,131 (80%) passed quality control assessment and were analyzed. Sixty-five children (12%) had a history of prenatal smoke exposure. At an FDR of 0.05, we identified 19 CpG loci significantly associated with prenatal smoke, of which two replicated in two independent populations. Exposure was associated with a 2% increase in mean CpG methylation in FRMD4A (p = 0.01) and Cllorf52 (p = 0.001) compared to no exposure. Four additional genes, XPNPEP1, PPEF2, SMPD3 and CRYGN, were nominally associated in at least one replication group.
These data suggest that prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke is associated with reproducible epigenetic changes that persist well into childhood. However, the biological significance of these altered loci remains unknown.
Asthma is a heterogeneous disease for which a strong genetic basis is firmly established. Although the generally accepted definition includes three domains of symptoms (variable airway obstruction, airway hyper-responsiveness, and airway inflammation), there is general agreement that, rather than being a single disease entity, asthma consists of related, overlapping syndromes. A considerable proportion of asthma is IgE-mediated, but the observation that not all individuals with asthma are atopic adds to the heterogeneity. Although a genetic basis for asthma is undeniable, elucidation of polymorphisms that are “causal” is greatly hampered by variability in the clinical phenotype, which is likely due to the multiple molecular mechanisms underlying the complex pathological processes involved in disease development and progression. One objective of this review is to consider progress that has been made to date in gene discovery in the field of asthma, with a focus on the evolution of molecular genetic methods that have led to the discoveries thus far, and with a particular focus on the major advances owed to the published genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on asthma to date. A second objective is to consider a Darwinian approach toward understanding the genetic underpinnings of asthma, including evidence supporting a modified Hygiene Hypothesis, which suggests that there are co-associations between asthma risk polymorphisms and polymorphisms associated with another IgE-mediated disease, schistosomiasis. The overall conclusion is that the huge research efforts and expense committed to asthma genetics have changed the perception about disease etiology in general and the functional relevance of the asthma genes identified thus far in particular.
asthma; genetics; single nucleotide polymorphism; genome-wide association study; pleioptropy
Sensitization to cockroach allergen is one of the strongest predictors of asthma morbidity, especially among African Americans.
Our aims were to determine the genomic basis of cockroach sensitization and the specific response to cockroach antigen.
We investigated the Th1/Th2 cytokine profile of co-cultured plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs) and CD4+ T cells and the “transcript signature” of the immune response to cockroach antigen using high-throughput expression profiling of co-cultured cells.
We observed significantly elevated levels of IL-13, IL-10 and TNF-α, but undetectable levels of IL-12p70 and IFN-α, when cultures were exposed to crude cockroach antigen. A significant difference was observed for IL-13 between cockroach allergic and non-allergic individuals (p = 0.039). Microarray analyses demonstrated a greater response at 48 hours compared to 4 hours, with 50 genes being uniquely expressed in cockroach antigen-treated cells, including CD14, S100A8, CCL8, and IFI44L. The increased CD14 expression was further observed in purified pDCs, human monocytic THP-1 cells, and supernatant of co-cultured pDCs and CD4+ T cells in exposure to cockroach extract. Furthermore, the most differential expression of CD14 between cockroach allergy and non-cockroach allergy was only observed among individuals with the CC “high-risk” genotype of the CD14 -260C/T. Ingenuity Pathways Analysis (IPA) analyses suggested the interferon-signaling as the most significant canonical pathway.
Our results suggest these differentially expressed genes, particularly CD14, and genes in the interferon-signaling pathway may be important candidates for further investigation of their role in the immune response to cockroach allergen.
asthma; CD4+ T cells; CD14; cockroach sensitization; Dendritic cells (DCs); high-throughput expression profiling
Atopic dermatitis; eczema herpeticum; thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP); interleukin (IL) 7-like cytokine (IL7R); thymic stromal lymphopoietin receptor (TSLPR); single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP); gene-gene interaction
COPD; Genetics; Association analysis; Consortium
Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) genes (CHRNA5/CHRNA3/CHRNB4) have been reproducibly associated with nicotine dependence, smoking behaviors, and lung cancer risk. Of the few reports that have focused on early smoking behaviors, association results have been mixed. This meta-analysis examines early smoking phenotypes and SNPs in the gene cluster to determine: (1) whether the most robust association signal in this region (rs16969968) for other smoking behaviors is also associated with early behaviors, and/or (2) if additional statistically independent signals are important in early smoking. We focused on two phenotypes: age of tobacco initiation (AOI) and age of first regular tobacco use (AOS). This study included 56,034 subjects (41 groups) spanning nine countries and evaluated five SNPs including rs1948, rs16969968, rs578776, rs588765, and rs684513. Each dataset was analyzed using a centrally generated script. Meta-analyses were conducted from summary statistics. AOS yielded significant associations with SNPs rs578776 (beta = 0.02, P = 0.004), rs1948 (beta = 0.023, P = 0.018), and rs684513 (beta = 0.032, P = 0.017), indicating protective effects. There were no significant associations for the AOI phenotype. Importantly, rs16969968, the most replicated signal in this region for nicotine dependence, cigarettes per day, and cotinine levels, was not associated with AOI (P = 0.59) or AOS (P = 0.92). These results provide important insight into the complexity of smoking behavior phenotypes, and suggest that association signals in the CHRNA5/A3/B4 gene cluster affecting early smoking behaviors may be different from those affecting the mature nicotine dependence phenotype.
CHRNA5; CHRNA3; CHRNB4; meta-analysis; nicotine; smoke
Rationale: Asthma prevalence and severity are high among underserved minorities, including those of African descent. The Duffy antigen/receptor for chemokines is the receptor for Plasmodium vivax on erythrocytes and functions as a chemokine-clearing receptor. Unlike European populations, decreased expression of the receptor on erythrocytes is common among populations of African descent, and results from a functional T-46C polymorphism (rs2814778) in the promoter. This variant provides an evolutionary advantage in malaria-endemic regions, because Duffy antigen/receptor for chemokines-negative erythrocytes are more resistant to infection by P. vivax.
Objectives: To determine the role of the rs2814778 polymorphism in asthma and atopy as measured by total serum IgE levels among four populations of African descent (African Caribbean, African American, Brazilian, and Colombian) and a European American population.
Methods: Family-based association tests were performed in each of the five populations to test for association between the rs2814778 polymorphism and asthma or total IgE concentration.
Measurements and Main Results: Asthma was significantly associated with the rs2814778 polymorphism in the African Caribbean, Colombian, and Brazilian families (P < 0.05). High total IgE levels were associated with this variant in African Caribbean and Colombian families (P < 0.05). The variant allele was not polymorphic among European Americans.
Conclusions: Susceptibility to asthma and atopy among certain populations of African descent is influenced by a functional polymorphism in the gene encoding Duffy antigen/receptor for chemokines. This genetic variant, which confers resistance to malarial parasitic infection, may also partially explain ethnic differences in morbidity of asthma.
Duffy antigen/receptor for chemokines; continental population groups; lung diseases; hypersensitivity
Genome-wide association studies of asthma have implicated many genetic risk factors, with
well-replicated associations at approximately 10 loci that account for only a small proportion of
the genetic risk.
We aimed to identify additional asthma risk loci by performing an extensive replication
study of the results from the EVE Consortium meta-analysis.
We selected 3186 SNPs for replication based on the p-values from the EVE Consortium
meta-analysis. These SNPs were genotyped in ethnically diverse replication samples from nine
different studies, totaling to 7202 cases, 6426 controls, and 507 case-parent trios. Association
analyses were conducted within each participating study and the resulting test statistics were
combined in a meta-analysis.
Two novel associations were replicated in European Americans: rs1061477 in the
KLK3 gene on chromosome 19 (combined OR = 1.18; 95% CI 1.10 – 1.25)
and rs9570077 (combined OR =1.20 95% CI 1.12–1.29) on chromosome 13q21. We could not
replicate any additional associations in the African American or Latino individuals.
This extended replication study identified two additional asthma risk loci in populations
of European descent. The absence of additional loci for African Americans and Latino individuals
highlights the difficulty in replicating associations in admixed populations.
Asthma; genetic risk factors; meta-analysis; KLK3
Admixture is a potential source of confounding in genetic association studies, so it becomes important to detect and estimate admixture in a sample of unrelated individuals. Populations of African descent in the US and the Caribbean share similar historical backgrounds but the distributions of African admixture may differ. We selected 416 ancestry informative markers (AIMs) to estimate and compare admixture proportions using STRUCTURE in 906 unrelated African Americans (AAs) and 294 Barbadians (ACs) from a study of asthma. This analysis showed AAs on average were 72.5% African, 19.6% European and 8% Asian, while ACs were 77.4% African, 15.9% European, and 6.7% Asian which were significantly different. A principal components analysis based on these AIMs yielded one primary eigenvector that explained 54.04% of the variation and captured a gradient from West African to European admixture. This principal component was highly correlated with African vs. European ancestry as estimated by STRUCTURE (r2 = 0.992, r2 = 0.912, respectively). To investigate other African contributions to African American and Barbadian admixture, we performed PCA on ~14,000 (14k) genome-wide SNPs in AAs, ACs, Yorubans, Luhya and Maasai African groups, and estimated genetic distances (FST). We found AAs and ACs were closest genetically (FST = 0.008), and both were closer to the Yorubans than the other East African populations. In our sample of individuals of African descent, ~400 well-defined AIMs were just as good for detecting substructure as ~14,000 random SNPs drawn from a genome-wide panel of markers.
admixture; African Americans; African Caribbeans; African ancestry; genetic distance
It has been well established that genetic factors strongly affect susceptibility to asthma and its associated traits. It is less clear to what extent genetic variation contributes to the ethnic disparities observed for asthma morbidity and mortality. Individuals of African descent with asthma have more severe asthma, higher IgE levels, a higher degree of steroid dependency, and more severe clinical symptoms than individuals of European descent with asthma but relatively few studies have focused on this particularly vulnerable ethnic group. Similar underrepresentation exists for other minorities, including Hispanics. In this review, a summary of linkage and association studies in populations of African descent is presented, and the role of linkage disequilibrium in the dissection of a complex trait such as asthma is discussed. Consideration for the impact of population stratification in recently admixed populations (i.e., European, African) is essential in genetic association studies focusing on African ancestry groups. With the most recent update on the International HapMap Project, efficient selection of haplotype tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms (htSNPs) for African Americans has accelerated and efficiency of htSNPs chosen from one population to represent other continental groups (e.g., African) has been demonstrated. Cutting-edge approaches, such as genomewide association studies, admixture mapping, and phylogenetic analyses, offer new opportunities for dissecting the genetic basis for asthma in populations of African descent.
genetic epidemiology; asthma; African descent; linkage disequilibrium
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is characterized by epidermal tight junction (TJ) defects and a propensity for Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) skin infections. S. aureus is sensed by many pattern recognition receptors including toll-like receptor (TLR) 2. We hypothesized that an effective innate immune response will include skin barrier repair and that this response is impaired in AD subjects. S. aureus-derived peptidoglycan (PGN) and synthetic TLR2 agonists enhanced TJ barrier and increased expression of TJ proteins, CLDN1, CLDN23, occludin and ZO-1 in primary human keratinocytes. A TLR2 agonist enhanced skin barrier recovery in human epidermis wounded by tape-stripping. Tlr2−/− mice had a delayed and incomplete barrier recovery following tape-stripping. AD subjects had reduced epidermal TLR2 expression as compared to nonatopic (NA) subjects, which inversely correlated (r= 0.654, P= 0.0004) with transepidermal water loss (TEWL). These observations indicate that TLR2 activation enhances skin barrier in murine and human skin and is an important part of a wound repair response. Reduced epidermal TLR2 expression observed in AD patients may play a role in their incompetent skin barrier.
Genetic variants that contribute to asthma susceptibility may be present at varying frequencies in different populations, which is an important consideration and advantage for performing genetic association studies in admixed populations.
To identify asthma-associated loci in African Americans.
We compared local African and European ancestry estimated from dense single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotype data in African American adults with asthma and non-asthmatic controls. Allelic tests of association were performed within the candidate regions identified, correcting for local European admixture.
We identified a significant ancestry association peak on chromosomes 6q. Allelic tests for association within this region identified a SNP (rs1361549) on 6q14.1 that was associated with asthma exclusively in African Americans with local European admixture (OR=2.2). The risk allele is common in Europe (42% in the HapMap CEU) but absent in West Africa (0% in the HapMap YRI), suggesting the allele is present in African Americans due to recent European admixture. We replicated our findings in Puerto Ricans and similarly found that the signal of association is largely specific to individuals who are heterozygous for African and non-African ancestry at 6q14.1. However, we found no evidence for association in European Americans or in Puerto Ricans in the absence of local African ancestry, suggesting that the association with asthma at rs1361549 is due to an environmental or genetic interaction.
We identified a novel asthma-associated locus that is relevant to admixed populations with African ancestry, and highlight the importance of considering local ancestry in genetic association studies of admixed populations.
asthma; population structure; genome-wide association study; admixture mapping; ancestry association testing; admixed populations; African Americans; Puerto Ricans
Acute lung injury (ALI) is a common and devastating illness that occurs in the context of sepsis and other systemic inflammatory disorders. In systemic illnesses like sepsis, only a subset of patients develops ALI even when pathologic stimuli are apparently equivalent, suggesting that there are genetic features that may influence its onset. Considerable obstacles in defining the exact nature of the pathogenesis of ALI include substantial phenotypic variance, incomplete penetrance, complex gene–environment interactions and a strong potential for locus heterogeneity. Moreover, ALI arises in a critically ill population with diverse precipitating factors and appropriate controls that best match the reference population have not been agreed upon. The sporadic nature of ALI precludes conventional approaches such as linkage mapping for the elucidation of candidate genes, but tremendous progress has been made in combining robust, genomic tools such as high-throughput, expression profiling with case-control association studies in well characterized populations. Similar to trends observed in common, complex traits such as hypertension and diabetes, some of these studies have highlighted differences in allelic variant frequencies between European American and African American ALI patients for novel genes which may explain, in part, the complex interplay between ethnicity, sepsis and the development of ALI. In trying to understand the basis for contemporary differences in allelic frequency, which may lead to differences in susceptibility, the potential role of positive selection for genetic variants in ancestral populations is considered.
acute lung injury; ethnicity; genetics; sepsis
Exome sequencing has become a powerful and effective strategy for discovery of genes underlying Mendelian disorders1. However, use of exome sequencing to identify variants associated with complex traits has been more challenging, partly because the samples sizes needed for adequate power may be very large2. One strategy to increase efficiency is to sequence individuals who are at both ends of a phenotype distribution (i.e., extreme phenotypes). Because the frequency of alleles that contribute to the trait are enriched in one or both extremes of phenotype, a modest sample size can potentially identify novel candidate genes/alleles3. As part of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Exome Sequencing Project (ESP), we used an extreme phenotype design to discover that variants in DCTN4, encoding a dynactin protein, are associated with time to first Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa) airway infection, chronic P. aeruginosa infection and mucoid P. aeruginosa among individuals with cystic fibrosis (MIM219700).
Asthma is a common chronic respiratory disease characterized by airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). The genetics of asthma have been widely studied in mouse and human, and homologous genomic regions have been associated with mouse AHR and human asthma-related phenotypes. Our goal was to identify asthma-related genes by integrating AHR associations in mouse with human genome-wide association study (GWAS) data. We used Efficient Mixed Model Association (EMMA) analysis to conduct a GWAS of baseline AHR measures from males and females of 31 mouse strains. Genes near or containing SNPs with EMMA p-values <0.001 were selected for further study in human GWAS. The results of the previously reported EVE consortium asthma GWAS meta-analysis consisting of 12,958 diverse North American subjects from 9 study centers were used to select a subset of homologous genes with evidence of association with asthma in humans. Following validation attempts in three human asthma GWAS (i.e., Sepracor/LOCCS/LODO/Illumina, GABRIEL, DAG) and two human AHR GWAS (i.e., SHARP, DAG), the Kv channel interacting protein 4 (KCNIP4) gene was identified as nominally associated with both asthma and AHR at a gene- and SNP-level. In EVE, the smallest KCNIP4 association was at rs6833065 (P-value 2.9e-04), while the strongest associations for Sepracor/LOCCS/LODO/Illumina, GABRIEL, DAG were 1.5e-03, 1.0e-03, 3.1e-03 at rs7664617, rs4697177, rs4696975, respectively. At a SNP level, the strongest association across all asthma GWAS was at rs4697177 (P-value 1.1e-04). The smallest P-values for association with AHR were 2.3e-03 at rs11947661 in SHARP and 2.1e-03 at rs402802 in DAG. Functional studies are required to validate the potential involvement of KCNIP4 in modulating asthma susceptibility and/or AHR. Our results suggest that a useful approach to identify genes associated with human asthma is to leverage mouse AHR association data.