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1.  Ethnic-specific associations of rare and low-frequency DNA sequence variants with asthma 
Nature Communications  2015;6:5965.
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.
PMCID: PMC4309441  PMID: 25591454
2.  Genome-wide association analysis identifies six new loci associated with forced vital capacity 
Loth, Daan W. | Artigas, María Soler | Gharib, Sina A. | Wain, Louise V. | Franceschini, Nora | Koch, Beate | Pottinger, Tess | Smith, Albert Vernon | Duan, Qing | Oldmeadow, Chris | Lee, Mi Kyeong | Strachan, David P. | James, Alan L. | Huffman, Jennifer E. | Vitart, Veronique | Ramasamy, Adaikalavan | Wareham, Nicholas J. | Kaprio, Jaakko | Wang, Xin-Qun | Trochet, Holly | Kähönen, Mika | Flexeder, Claudia | Albrecht, Eva | Lopez, Lorna M. | de Jong, Kim | Thyagarajan, Bharat | Alves, Alexessander Couto | Enroth, Stefan | Omenaas, Ernst | Joshi, Peter K. | Fall, Tove | Viňuela, Ana | Launer, Lenore J. | Loehr, Laura R. | Fornage, Myriam | Li, Guo | Wilk, Jemma B. | Tang, Wenbo | Manichaikul, Ani | Lahousse, Lies | Harris, Tamara B. | North, Kari E. | Rudnicka, Alicja R. | Hui, Jennie | Gu, Xiangjun | Lumley, Thomas | Wright, Alan F. | Hastie, Nicholas D. | Campbell, Susan | Kumar, Rajesh | Pin, Isabelle | Scott, Robert A. | Pietiläinen, Kirsi H. | Surakka, Ida | Liu, Yongmei | Holliday, Elizabeth G. | Schulz, Holger | Heinrich, Joachim | Davies, Gail | Vonk, Judith M. | Wojczynski, Mary | Pouta, Anneli | Johansson, Åsa | Wild, Sarah H. | Ingelsson, Erik | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Völzke, Henry | Hysi, Pirro G. | Eiriksdottir, Gudny | Morrison, Alanna C. | Rotter, Jerome I. | Gao, Wei | Postma, Dirkje S. | White, Wendy B. | Rich, Stephen S. | Hofman, Albert | Aspelund, Thor | Couper, David | Smith, Lewis J. | Psaty, Bruce M. | Lohman, Kurt | Burchard, Esteban G. | Uitterlinden, André G. | Garcia, Melissa | Joubert, Bonnie R. | McArdle, Wendy L. | Musk, A. Bill | Hansel, Nadia | Heckbert, Susan R. | Zgaga, Lina | van Meurs, Joyce B.J. | Navarro, Pau | Rudan, Igor | Oh, Yeon-Mok | Redline, Susan | Jarvis, Deborah | Zhao, Jing Hua | Rantanen, Taina | O’Connor, George T. | Ripatti, Samuli | Scott, Rodney J. | Karrasch, Stefan | Grallert, Harald | Gaddis, Nathan C. | Starr, John M. | Wijmenga, Cisca | Minster, Ryan L. | Lederer, David J. | Pekkanen, Juha | Gyllensten, Ulf | Campbell, Harry | Morris, Andrew P. | Gläser, Sven | Hammond, Christopher J. | Burkart, Kristin M. | Beilby, John | Kritchevsky, Stephen B. | Gudnason, Vilmundur | Hancock, Dana B. | Williams, O. Dale | Polasek, Ozren | Zemunik, Tatijana | Kolcic, Ivana | Petrini, Marcy F. | Wjst, Matthias | Kim, Woo Jin | Porteous, David J. | Scotland, Generation | Smith, Blair H. | Viljanen, Anne | Heliövaara, Markku | Attia, John R. | Sayers, Ian | Hampel, Regina | Gieger, Christian | Deary, Ian J. | Boezen, H. Marike | Newman, Anne | Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Wilson, James F. | Lind, Lars | Stricker, Bruno H. | Teumer, Alexander | Spector, Timothy D. | Melén, Erik | Peters, Marjolein J. | Lange, Leslie A. | Barr, R. Graham | Bracke, Ken R. | Verhamme, Fien M. | Sung, Joohon | Hiemstra, Pieter S. | Cassano, Patricia A. | Sood, Akshay | Hayward, Caroline | Dupuis, Josée | Hall, Ian P. | Brusselle, Guy G. | Tobin, Martin D. | London, Stephanie J.
Nature genetics  2014;46(7):669-677.
Forced vital capacity (FVC), a spirometric measure of pulmonary function, reflects lung volume and is used to diagnose and monitor lung diseases. We performed genome-wide association study meta-analysis of FVC in 52,253 individuals from 26 studies and followed up the top associations in 32,917 additional individuals of European ancestry. We found six new regions associated at genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10−8) with FVC in or near EFEMP1, BMP6, MIR-129-2/HSD17B12, PRDM11, WWOX, and KCNJ2. Two (GSTCD and PTCH1) loci previously associated with spirometric measures were related to FVC. Newly implicated regions were followed-up in samples of African American, Korean, Chinese, and Hispanic individuals. We detected transcripts for all six newly implicated genes in human lung tissue. The new loci may inform mechanisms involved in lung development and pathogenesis of restrictive lung disease.
PMCID: PMC4140093  PMID: 24929828
3.  Genome-Wide Association Study of Lung Function Phenotypes in a Founder Population 
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.
PMCID: PMC4270121  PMID: 23932459
4.  The Genetics of Mexico Recapitulates Native American Substructure and Affects Biomedical Traits 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2014;344(6189):1280-1285.
Mexico harbors great cultural and ethnic diversity, yet fine-scale patterns of human genome-wide variation from this region remain largely uncharacterized. We studied genomic variation within Mexico from over 1,000 individuals representing 20 indigenous and 11 mestizo populations. We found striking genetic stratification among indigenous populations within Mexico at varying degrees of geographic isolation. Some groups were as differentiated as Europeans are from East Asians. Pre-Columbian genetic substructure is recapitulated in the indigenous ancestry of admixed mestizo individuals across the country. Furthermore, two independently phenotyped cohorts of Mexicans and Mexican Americans showed a significant association between sub-continental ancestry and lung function. Thus, accounting for fine-scale ancestry patterns is critical for medical and population genetic studies within Mexico, in Mexican-descent populations, and likely in many other populations worldwide.
PMCID: PMC4156478  PMID: 24926019
5.  Socioeconomic Status and Childhood Asthma in Urban Minority Youths. The GALA II and SAGE II Studies 
Rationale: The burden of asthma is highest among socioeconomically disadvantaged populations; however, its impact is differentially distributed among racial and ethnic groups.
Objectives: To assess the collective effect of maternal educational attainment, annual household income, and insurance type on childhood asthma among minority, urban youth.
Methods: We included Mexican American (n = 485), other Latino (n = 217), and African American (n = 1,141) children (aged 8–21 yr) with and without asthma from the San Francisco Bay Area. An index was derived from maternal educational attainment, annual household income, and insurance type to assess the collective effect of socioeconomic status on predicting asthma. Logistic regression stratified by racial and ethnic group was used to estimate adjusted odds ratios (aOR) and their 95% confidence intervals (CI). We further examined whether acculturation explained the socioeconomic-asthma association in our Latino population.
Measurements and Main Results: In the adjusted analyses, African American children had 23% greater odds of asthma with each decrease in the socioeconomic index (aOR, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.09–1.38). Conversely, Mexican American children have 17% reduced odds of asthma with each decrease in the socioeconomic index (aOR, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.72–0.96) and this relationship was not fully explained by acculturation. This association was not observed in the other Latino group.
Conclusions: Socioeconomic status plays an important role in predicting asthma, but has different effects depending on race and ethnicity. Further steps are necessary to better understand the risk factors through which socioeconomic status could operate in these populations to prevent asthma.
PMCID: PMC3863734  PMID: 24050698
asthma; health status disparities; minority health; educational status; poverty
6.  Factors associated with degree of atopy in Latino children in a nationwide pediatric sample: The GALA II Study 
Atopy varies by ethnicity even within Latino groups. This variation may be due to environmental, socio-cultural or genetic factors.
To examine risk factors for atopy within a nationwide study of U.S. Latino children with and without asthma.
Aeroallergen skin test repsonse was analyzed in 1830 US latino subjects. Key determinants of atopy included: country / region of origin, generation in the U.S., acculturation, genetic ancestry and site to which individuals migrated. Serial multivariate zero inflated negative binomial regressions, stratified by asthma status, examined the association of each key determinant variable with the number of positive skin tests. In addition, the independent effect of each key variable was determined by including all key variables in the final models.
In baseline analyses, African ancestry was associated with 3 times as many positive skin tests in participants with asthma (95% CI:1.62–5.57) and 3.26 times as many positive skin tests in control participants (95% CI: 1.02–10.39). Generation and recruitment site were also associated with atopy in crude models. In final models adjusted for key variables, Puerto Rican [exp(β) (95%CI): 1.31(1.02–1.69)] and mixed ethnicity [exp(β) (95%CI):1.27(1.03–1.56)] asthmatics had a greater probability of positive skin tests compared to Mexican asthmatics. Ancestry associations were abrogated by recruitment site, but not region of origin.
Puerto Rican ethnicity and mixed origin were associated with degree of atopy within U.S. Latino children with asthma. African ancestry was not associated with degree of atopy after adjusting for recruitment site. Local environment variation, represented by site, was associated with degree of sensitization.
PMCID: PMC3788073  PMID: 23684070
Latino; atopy; region of origin; genetic ancestry; immigration; skin test; aeroallergen
7.  Whole-Genome Sequencing of Individuals from a Founder Population Identifies Candidate Genes for Asthma 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104396.
Asthma is a complex genetic disease caused by a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors. We sought to test classes of genetic variants largely missed by genome-wide association studies (GWAS), including copy number variants (CNVs) and low-frequency variants, by performing whole-genome sequencing (WGS) on 16 individuals from asthma-enriched and asthma-depleted families. The samples were obtained from an extended 13-generation Hutterite pedigree with reduced genetic heterogeneity due to a small founding gene pool and reduced environmental heterogeneity as a result of a communal lifestyle. We sequenced each individual to an average depth of 13-fold, generated a comprehensive catalog of genetic variants, and tested the most severe mutations for association with asthma. We identified and validated 1960 CNVs, 19 nonsense or splice-site single nucleotide variants (SNVs), and 18 insertions or deletions that were out of frame. As follow-up, we performed targeted sequencing of 16 genes in 837 cases and 540 controls of Puerto Rican ancestry and found that controls carry a significantly higher burden of mutations in IL27RA (2.0% of controls; 0.23% of cases; nominal p = 0.004; Bonferroni p = 0.21). We also genotyped 593 CNVs in 1199 Hutterite individuals. We identified a nominally significant association (p = 0.03; Odds ratio (OR) = 3.13) between a 6 kbp deletion in an intron of NEDD4L and increased risk of asthma. We genotyped this deletion in an additional 4787 non-Hutterite individuals (nominal p = 0.056; OR = 1.69). NEDD4L is expressed in bronchial epithelial cells, and conditional knockout of this gene in the lung in mice leads to severe inflammation and mucus accumulation. Our study represents one of the early instances of applying WGS to complex disease with a large environmental component and demonstrates how WGS can identify risk variants, including CNVs and low-frequency variants, largely untested in GWAS.
PMCID: PMC4130548  PMID: 25116239
8.  Integrated genome-wide association, coexpression network, and expression single nucleotide polymorphism analysis identifies novel pathway in allergic rhinitis 
BMC Medical Genomics  2014;7:48.
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.
PMCID: PMC4127082  PMID: 25085501
Genome-wide association study; Allergic rhinitis; Coexpression network; Expression single-nucleotide polymorphism; Coexpression module; Pathway; Mitochondria; Hay fever; Allergy
9.  Early-Life Air Pollution and Asthma Risk in Minority Children. The GALA II and SAGE II Studies 
Rationale: Air pollution is a known asthma trigger and has been associated with short-term asthma symptoms, airway inflammation, decreased lung function, and reduced response to asthma rescue medications.
Objectives: To assess a causal relationship between air pollution and childhood asthma using data that address temporality by estimating air pollution exposures before the development of asthma and to establish the generalizability of the association by studying diverse racial/ethnic populations in different geographic regions.
Methods: This study included Latino (n = 3,343) and African American (n = 977) participants with and without asthma from five urban regions in the mainland United States and Puerto Rico. Residential history and data from local ambient air monitoring stations were used to estimate average annual exposure to five air pollutants: ozone, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide, particulate matter not greater than 10 μm in diameter, and particulate matter not greater than 2.5 μm in diameter. Within each region, we performed logistic regression to determine the relationship between early-life exposure to air pollutants and subsequent asthma diagnosis. A random-effects model was used to combine the region-specific effects and generate summary odds ratios for each pollutant.
Measurements and Main Results: After adjustment for confounders, a 5-ppb increase in average NO2 during the first year of life was associated with an odds ratio of 1.17 for physician-diagnosed asthma (95% confidence interval, 1.04–1.31).
Conclusions: Early-life NO2 exposure is associated with childhood asthma in Latinos and African Americans. These results add to a growing body of evidence that traffic-related pollutants may be causally related to childhood asthma.
PMCID: PMC3778732  PMID: 23750510
air pollution; minority; children; asthma
10.  Analysis of Latino populations from GALA and MEC studies reveals genomic loci with biased local ancestry estimation 
Bioinformatics  2013;29(11):1407-1415.
Motivation: Local ancestry analysis of genotype data from recently admixed populations (e.g. Latinos, African Americans) provides key insights into population history and disease genetics. Although methods for local ancestry inference have been extensively validated in simulations (under many unrealistic assumptions), no empirical study of local ancestry accuracy in Latinos exists to date. Hence, interpreting findings that rely on local ancestry in Latinos is challenging.
Results: Here, we use 489 nuclear families from the mainland USA, Puerto Rico and Mexico in conjunction with 3204 unrelated Latinos from the Multiethnic Cohort study to provide the first empirical characterization of local ancestry inference accuracy in Latinos. Our approach for identifying errors does not rely on simulations but on the observation that local ancestry in families follows Mendelian inheritance. We measure the rate of local ancestry assignments that lead to Mendelian inconsistencies in local ancestry in trios (MILANC), which provides a lower bound on errors in the local ancestry estimates. We show that MILANC rates observed in simulations underestimate the rate observed in real data, and that MILANC varies substantially across the genome. Second, across a wide range of methods, we observe that loci with large deviations in local ancestry also show enrichment in MILANC rates. Therefore, local ancestry estimates at such loci should be interpreted with caution. Finally, we reconstruct ancestral haplotype panels to be used as reference panels in local ancestry inference and show that ancestry inference is significantly improved by incoroprating these reference panels.
Availability and implementation: We provide the reconstructed reference panels together with the maps of MILANC rates as a public resource for researchers analyzing local ancestry in Latinos at
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3661056  PMID: 23572411
11.  Inherited GATA3 variants are associated with Ph-like childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia and risk of relapse 
Nature genetics  2013;45(12):1494-1498.
Recent genomic profiling of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) identified a novel high-risk subtype with a gene expression signature resembling Philadelphia chromosome-positive ALL and a poor prognosis (Ph-like ALL). However, the role of inherited genetic variation in Ph-like ALL pathogenesis remains unknown. In a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of 511 ALL cases and 6,661 non-ALL controls, we identified a single susceptibility locus for Ph-like ALL (GATA3, rs3824662, P=2.17×10−14, odds ratio [OR]=3.85, for Ph-like ALL vs. non-ALL; P=1.05×10−8, OR=3.25, for Ph-like ALL vs. non-Ph-like ALL) that was independently validated. The rs3824662 risk allele was associated with somatic lesions underlying Ph-like ALL (i.e., CRLF2 rearrangement, JAK mutation, and IKZF1 deletion) and directly influenced GATA3 transcription. Finally, GATA3 SNP genotype was also associated with early treatment response and the risk of ALL relapse. Our results provide insights into interactions between host and tumor genomes and their importance in ALL pathogenesis and prognosis.
PMCID: PMC4039076  PMID: 24141364
12.  Novel Susceptibility Variants at 10p12.31-12.2 for Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in Ethnically Diverse Populations 
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common cancer in children and the incidence of ALL varies by ethnicity. Although accumulating evidence indicates inherited predisposition to ALL, the genetic basis of ALL susceptibility in diverse ancestry has not been comprehensively examined.
We performed a multiethnic genome-wide association study in 1605 children with ALL and 6661 control subjects after adjusting for population structure, with validation in three replication series of 845 case subjects and 4316 control subjects. Association was tested by two-sided logistic regression.
A novel ALL susceptibility locus at 10p12.31-12.2 (BMI1-PIP4K2A, rs7088318, P = 1.1×10−11) was identified in the genome-wide association study, with independent replication in European Americans, African Americans, and Hispanic Americans (P = .001, .009, and .04, respectively). Association was also validated at four known ALL susceptibility loci: ARID5B, IKZF1, CEBPE, and CDKN2A/2B. Associations at ARID5B, IKZF1, and BMI1-PIP4K2A variants were consistent across ethnicity, with multiple independent signals at IKZF1 and BMI1-PIP4K2A loci. The frequency of ARID5B and BMI1-PIP4K2A variants differed by ethnicity, in parallel with ethnic differences in ALL incidence. Suggestive evidence for modifying effects of age on genetic predisposition to ALL was also observed. ARID5B, IKZF1, CEBPE, and BMI1-PIP4K2A variants cumulatively conferred strong predisposition to ALL, with children carrying six to eight copies of risk alleles at a ninefold (95% confidence interval = 6.9 to 11.8) higher ALL risk relative to those carrying zero to one risk allele at these four single nucleotide polymorphisms.
These findings indicate strong associations between inherited genetic variation and ALL susceptibility in children and shed new light on ALL molecular etiology in diverse ancestry.
PMCID: PMC3691938  PMID: 23512250
13.  A Meta-analysis of Genome-wide Association Studies for Serum Total IgE in Diverse Study Populations 
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.
PMCID: PMC3596497  PMID: 23146381
meta-analysis; genome wide association study; total immunoglobulin E; race-ethnicity; continental population groups
14.  Childhood Obesity and Asthma Control in the GALA II and SAGE II Studies 
Rationale: Obesity is associated with increased asthma morbidity, lower drug responsiveness to inhaled corticosteroids, and worse asthma control. However, most prior investigations on obesity and asthma control have not focused on pediatric populations, considered environmental exposures, or included minority children.
Objectives: To examine the association between body mass index categories and asthma control among boys and girls; and whether these associations are modified by age and race/ethnicity.
Methods: Children and adolescents ages 8–19 years (n = 2,174) with asthma were recruited from the Genes-environments and Admixture in Latino Americans (GALA II) Study and the Study of African Americans, Asthma, Genes, and Environments (SAGE II). Ordinal logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) and their confidence intervals (95% CI) for worse asthma control.
Measurements and Main Results: In adjusted analyses, boys who were obese had a 33% greater chance of having worse asthma control than their normal-weight counterparts (OR, 1.33; 95% CI, 1.04–1.71). However, for girls this association varied with race and ethnicity (P interaction = 0.008). When compared with their normal-weight counterparts, obese African American girls (OR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.41–1.05) were more likely to have better controlled asthma, whereas Mexican American girls had a 1.91 (95% CI, 1.12–3.28) greater odds of worse asthma control.
Conclusions: Worse asthma control is uniformly associated with increased body mass index in boys. Among girls, the direction of this association varied with race/ethnicity.
PMCID: PMC3678111  PMID: 23392439
obesity; asthma control; race and ethnicity; age; sex
15.  Role of interactions in pharmacogenetic studies: leukotrienes in asthma 
Pharmacogenomics  2013;14(8):10.2217/pgs.13.70.
Researchers have identified thousands of loci involved in complex traits and drug response. However, in most cases they only explain a small proportion of the heritability of the trait. Among different strategies conducted to identify this ‘missing heritability’, here we illustrate the importance of complex gene–environment interactions using findings regarding the role of leukotrienes on the bronchodilator response to albuterol in Latino asthmatics. Patients managing their asthma with leukotriene-modifying medication presented higher increases in the bronchodilator response to albuterol. Moreover, interactions between genes responsible for leukotriene production were associated with a decreased risk of asthma. Combining genetic and pharmacologic effects, leukotriene-modifying users carrying certain combinations of alleles presented higher improvements in lung function after bronchodilator administration. Genes and drugs act at different orders of interaction (from individual effects to gene–gene–drug–drug interactions) and population-specific effects have to be considered. These results may be extrapolated to other complex phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3852422  PMID: 23746186
albuterol; asthma; bronchodilator drug response; drug–drug interaction; ethnic differences; gene–gene interaction; leukotriene modifier; leukotrienes
16.  Reconstructing Native American Migrations from Whole-Genome and Whole-Exome Data 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(12):e1004023.
There is great scientific and popular interest in understanding the genetic history of populations in the Americas. We wish to understand when different regions of the continent were inhabited, where settlers came from, and how current inhabitants relate genetically to earlier populations. Recent studies unraveled parts of the genetic history of the continent using genotyping arrays and uniparental markers. The 1000 Genomes Project provides a unique opportunity for improving our understanding of population genetic history by providing over a hundred sequenced low coverage genomes and exomes from Colombian (CLM), Mexican-American (MXL), and Puerto Rican (PUR) populations. Here, we explore the genomic contributions of African, European, and especially Native American ancestry to these populations. Estimated Native American ancestry is in MXL, in CLM, and in PUR. Native American ancestry in PUR is most closely related to populations surrounding the Orinoco River basin, confirming the Southern America ancestry of the Taíno people of the Caribbean. We present new methods to estimate the allele frequencies in the Native American fraction of the populations, and model their distribution using a demographic model for three ancestral Native American populations. These ancestral populations likely split in close succession: the most likely scenario, based on a peopling of the Americas thousand years ago (kya), supports that the MXL Ancestors split kya, with a subsequent split of the ancestors to CLM and PUR kya. The model also features effective populations of in Mexico, in Colombia, and in Puerto Rico. Modeling Identity-by-descent (IBD) and ancestry tract length, we show that post-contact populations also differ markedly in their effective sizes and migration patterns, with Puerto Rico showing the smallest effective size and the earlier migration from Europe. Finally, we compare IBD and ancestry assignments to find evidence for relatedness among European founders to the three populations.
Author Summary
Populations of the Americas have a rich and heterogeneous genetic and cultural heritage that draws from a diversity of pre-Columbian Native American, European, and African populations. Characterizing this diversity facilitates the development of medical genetics research in diverse populations and the transfer of medical knowledge across populations. It also represents an opportunity to better understand the peopling of the Americas, from the crossing of Beringia to the post-Columbian era. Here, we take advantage sequencing of individuals of Colombian (CLM), Mexican (MXL), and Puerto Rican (PUR) origin by the 1000 Genomes project to improve our demographic models for the peopling of the Americas. The divergence among African, European, and Native American ancestors to these populations enables us to infer the continent of origin at each locus in the sampled genomes. The resulting patterns of ancestry suggest complex post-Columbian migration histories, starting later in CLM than in MXL and PUR. Whereas European ancestral segments show evidence of relatedness, a demographic model of synonymous variation suggests that the Native American Ancestors to MXL, PUR, and CLM panels split within a few hundred years over 12 thousand years ago. Together with early archeological sites in South America, these results support rapid divergence during the initial peopling of the Americas.
PMCID: PMC3873240  PMID: 24385924
17.  Genetic ancestry and its association with asthma exacerbations among African American patients with asthma 
There are large and persisting disparities in severe asthma exacerbations by race-ethnicity, and African American individuals are among those at greatest risk. It is unclear whether this increased risk solely represents differences in environmental exposures and health care, or whether there is a predisposing genetic component.
To assess the relationship between genetic ancestry and severe exacerbations among African American individuals with asthma.
Participants were part of the Study of Asthma Phenotypes and Pharmacogenomic Interactions by Race-ethnicity (SAPPHIRE). These individuals were 12–56 years of age; received care from a single, large health system; and had a physician diagnosis of asthma. Genetic ancestry was estimated using a set of validated ancestry informative markers. Severe exacerbations (i.e., asthma-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and burst oral steroid use) were prospectively identified from health care claims.
We assessed genetic ancestry in 392 African American individuals with asthma. The average proportion of African ancestry was 76.1%. A significant interaction was identified between ancestry and sex on severe exacerbations, such that the risk was significantly higher with increasing African ancestry among males but not among females. The association among males persisted after adjusting for potential confounders (relative risk of 4.30 for every 20% increase in African ancestry; P-value 0.029).
African ancestry was a significantly and positively associated with severe exacerbations among African American males. These findings suggest that a portion of the risk of asthma exacerbations in this high risk group is attributable to a genetic risk factor which partitions with ancestry.
PMCID: PMC3511609  PMID: 23069492
asthma; continental population groups; African continental ancestry group; genetic association study; health status disparities; minority health
18.  Further Replication Studies of the EVE Consortium Meta-Analysis Identifies Two Asthma Risk Loci in European Americans 
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.
PMCID: PMC3666859  PMID: 23040885
Asthma; genetic risk factors; meta-analysis; KLK3
19.  Reconstructing the Population Genetic History of the Caribbean 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(11):e1003925.
The Caribbean basin is home to some of the most complex interactions in recent history among previously diverged human populations. Here, we investigate the population genetic history of this region by characterizing patterns of genome-wide variation among 330 individuals from three of the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola), two mainland (Honduras, Colombia), and three Native South American (Yukpa, Bari, and Warao) populations. We combine these data with a unique database of genomic variation in over 3,000 individuals from diverse European, African, and Native American populations. We use local ancestry inference and tract length distributions to test different demographic scenarios for the pre- and post-colonial history of the region. We develop a novel ancestry-specific PCA (ASPCA) method to reconstruct the sub-continental origin of Native American, European, and African haplotypes from admixed genomes. We find that the most likely source of the indigenous ancestry in Caribbean islanders is a Native South American component shared among inland Amazonian tribes, Central America, and the Yucatan peninsula, suggesting extensive gene flow across the Caribbean in pre-Columbian times. We find evidence of two pulses of African migration. The first pulse—which today is reflected by shorter, older ancestry tracts—consists of a genetic component more similar to coastal West African regions involved in early stages of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The second pulse—reflected by longer, younger tracts—is more similar to present-day West-Central African populations, supporting historical records of later transatlantic deportation. Surprisingly, we also identify a Latino-specific European component that has significantly diverged from its parental Iberian source populations, presumably as a result of small European founder population size. We demonstrate that the ancestral components in admixed genomes can be traced back to distinct sub-continental source populations with far greater resolution than previously thought, even when limited pre-Columbian Caribbean haplotypes have survived.
Author Summary
Latinos are often regarded as a single heterogeneous group, whose complex variation is not fully appreciated in several social, demographic, and biomedical contexts. By making use of genomic data, we characterize ancestral components of Caribbean populations on a sub-continental level and unveil fine-scale patterns of population structure distinguishing insular from mainland Caribbean populations as well as from other Hispanic/Latino groups. We provide genetic evidence for an inland South American origin of the Native American component in island populations and for extensive pre-Columbian gene flow across the Caribbean basin. The Caribbean-derived European component shows significant differentiation from parental Iberian populations, presumably as a result of founder effects during the colonization of the New World. Based on demographic models, we reconstruct the complex population history of the Caribbean since the onset of continental admixture. We find that insular populations are best modeled as mixtures absorbing two pulses of African migrants, coinciding with the early and maximum activity stages of the transatlantic slave trade. These two pulses appear to have originated in different regions within West Africa, imprinting two distinguishable signatures on present-day Afro-Caribbean genomes and shedding light on the genetic impact of the slave trade in the Caribbean.
PMCID: PMC3828151  PMID: 24244192
20.  Genetic variation in BAFF and asthma exacerbations among African American individuals 
Capsule Summary
A BAFF polymorphism is associated with asthma exacerbations and serum BAFF levels. BAFF expression in vivo increases in natural rhinovirus infection. BAFF may play a role in airway antiviral immunity and impact asthma exacerbation rates.
PMCID: PMC3520130  PMID: 22728080
BAFF; B-cell activating factor; tumor necrosis factor ligand superfamily; asthma; asthma exacerbations; genetics
21.  Genome-wide Ancestry Association Testing Identifies a Common European Variant on 6q14.1 as a Risk Factor for Asthma in African Americans 
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.
PMCID: PMC3503456  PMID: 22607992
asthma; population structure; genome-wide association study; admixture mapping; ancestry association testing; admixed populations; African Americans; Puerto Ricans
22.  Genomics for the world 
Nature  2011;475(7355):163-165.
PMCID: PMC3708540  PMID: 21753830
23.  Case-control admixture mapping in Latino populations enriches for known asthma-associated genes 
Polymorphisms in more than 100 genes have been associated with asthma susceptibility, yet much of the heritability remains to be explained. Asthma disproportionately affects different racial and ethnic groups in the United States, suggesting that admixture mapping is a useful strategy to identify novel asthma-associated loci.
We sought to identify novel asthma-associated loci in Latino populations using case-control admixture mapping.
We performed genome-wide admixture mapping by comparing levels of local Native American, European, and African ancestry between children with asthma and nonasthmatic control subjects in Puerto Rican and Mexican populations. Within candidate peaks, we performed allelic tests of association, controlling for differences in local ancestry.
Between the 2 populations, we identified a total of 62 admixture mapping peaks at a P value of less than 10−3 that were significantly enriched for previously identified asthma-associated genes (P = .0051). One of the peaks was statistically significant based on 100 permutations in the Mexican sample (6q15); however, it was not significant in Puerto Rican subjects. Another peak was identified at nominal significance in both populations (8q12); however, the association was observed with different ancestries.
Case-control admixture mapping is a promising strategy for identifying novel asthma-associated loci in Latino populations and implicates genetic variation at 6q15 and 8q12 regions with asthma susceptibility. This approach might be useful for identifying regions that contribute to both shared and population-specific differences in asthma susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3593143  PMID: 22502797
Admixture mapping; genome-wide association study; asthma; Latino populations; population-specific risk factors
24.  The impact of secondhand smoke on asthma control among Black and Latino children 
Among people with asthma, the clinical impact and relative contribution of maternal smoking during pregnancy (in utero smoking) and current secondhand smoke exposure on asthma control is poorly documented, and there is a paucity of research involving minority populations.
To examine the association between poor asthma control and in utero smoking and current secondhand smoke exposure among Latino and Black children with asthma.
Case-only analysis of 2 multi-center case-control studies conducted from 2008–2010 using similar protocols. We recruited 2,481 Latinos and Blacks with asthma (ages 8–17) from the mainland United States and Puerto Rico. Ordinal logistic regression was used to estimate the effect of in utero smoking and current secondhand smoke exposures on National Heart Lung and Blood Institute-defined asthma control.
Poor asthma control among children 8–17 years of age was independently associated with in utero smoking (odds ratio; 95% confidence interval = 1.5; 1.1–2.0). In utero smoking via the mother was also associated with secondary asthma outcomes, including early onset asthma (1.7; 1.1–2.4), daytime symptoms (1.6; 1.1–2.1), and asthma-related limitation of activities (1.6; 1.2–2.2).
Maternal smoking while in utero is associated with poor asthma control in Black and Latino subjects assessed at 8–17 years of age.
PMCID: PMC3367092  PMID: 22552109
Secondhand smoke; prenatal exposure delayed effects; asthma; health status disparities
25.  Fast and accurate inference of local ancestry in Latino populations 
Bioinformatics  2012;28(10):1359-1367.
Motivation: It is becoming increasingly evident that the analysis of genotype data from recently admixed populations is providing important insights into medical genetics and population history. Such analyses have been used to identify novel disease loci, to understand recombination rate variation and to detect recent selection events. The utility of such studies crucially depends on accurate and unbiased estimation of the ancestry at every genomic locus in recently admixed populations. Although various methods have been proposed and shown to be extremely accurate in two-way admixtures (e.g. African Americans), only a few approaches have been proposed and thoroughly benchmarked on multi-way admixtures (e.g. Latino populations of the Americas).
Results: To address these challenges we introduce here methods for local ancestry inference which leverage the structure of linkage disequilibrium in the ancestral population (LAMP-LD), and incorporate the constraint of Mendelian segregation when inferring local ancestry in nuclear family trios (LAMP-HAP). Our algorithms uniquely combine hidden Markov models (HMMs) of haplotype diversity within a novel window-based framework to achieve superior accuracy as compared with published methods. Further, unlike previous methods, the structure of our HMM does not depend on the number of reference haplotypes but on a fixed constant, and it is thereby capable of utilizing large datasets while remaining highly efficient and robust to over-fitting. Through simulations and analysis of real data from 489 nuclear trio families from the mainland US, Puerto Rico and Mexico, we demonstrate that our methods achieve superior accuracy compared with published methods for local ancestry inference in Latinos.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3348558  PMID: 22495753

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