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1.  Exome Array Analysis Identifies a Common Variant in IL27 Associated with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Rationale: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) susceptibility is in part related to genetic variants. Most genetic studies have been focused on genome-wide common variants without a specific focus on coding variants, but common and rare coding variants may also affect COPD susceptibility.
Objectives: To identify coding variants associated with COPD.
Methods: We tested nonsynonymous, splice, and stop variants derived from the Illumina HumanExome array for association with COPD in five study populations enriched for COPD. We evaluated single variants with a minor allele frequency greater than 0.5% using logistic regression. Results were combined using a fixed effects meta-analysis. We replicated novel single-variant associations in three additional COPD cohorts.
Measurements and Main Results: We included 6,004 control subjects and 6,161 COPD cases across five cohorts for analysis. Our top result was rs16969968 (P = 1.7 × 10−14) in CHRNA5, a locus previously associated with COPD susceptibility and nicotine dependence. Additional top results were found in AGER, MMP3, and SERPINA1. A nonsynonymous variant, rs181206, in IL27 (P = 4.7 × 10−6) was just below the level of exome-wide significance but attained exome-wide significance (P = 5.7 × 10−8) when combined with results from other cohorts. Gene expression datasets revealed an association of rs181206 and the surrounding locus with expression of multiple genes; several were differentially expressed in COPD lung tissue, including TUFM.
Conclusions: In an exome array analysis of COPD, we identified nonsynonymous variants at previously described loci and a novel exome-wide significant variant in IL27. This variant is at a locus previously described in genome-wide associations with diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and obesity and appears to affect genes potentially related to COPD pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4960630  PMID: 26771213
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; genetics; exome; IL-27
2.  The impact of genetic variation and cigarette smoke on DNA methylation in current and former smokers from the COPDGene study 
Epigenetics  2015;10(11):1064-1073.
DNA methylation can be affected by systemic exposures, such as cigarette smoking and genetic sequence variation; however, the relative impact of each on the epigenome is unknown. We aimed to assess if cigarette smoking and genetic variation are associated with overlapping or distinct sets of DNA methylation marks and pathways. We selected 85 Caucasian current and former smokers with genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping available from the COPDGene study.  Genome-wide methylation was obtained on DNA from whole blood using the Illumina HumanMethylation27 platform. To determine the impact of local sequence variation on DNA methylation (mQTL), we examined the association between methylation and SNPs within 50 kb of each CpG site.  To examine the impact of cigarette smoking on DNA methylation, we examined the differences in methylation by current cigarette smoking status. We detected 770 CpG sites annotated to 708 genes associated at an FDR < 0.05 in the cis-mQTL analysis and 1,287 CpG sites annotated to 1,242 genes, which were nominally associated in the smoking-CpG association analysis (Punadjusted < 0.05). Forty-three CpG sites annotated to 40 genes were associated with both SNP variation and current smoking; this overlap was not greater than that expected by chance. Our results suggest that cigarette smoking and genetic variants impact distinct sets of DNA methylation marks, the further elucidation of which may partially explain the variable susceptibility to the health effects of cigarette smoking. Ascertaining how genetic variation and systemic exposures differentially impact the human epigenome has relevance for both biomarker identification and therapeutic target development for smoking-related diseases.
PMCID: PMC4844199  PMID: 26646902
cis-mQTL; CpG site; epigenetics; environmental factor; genetic variant
3.  Hemizygous Deletion on Chromosome 3p26.1 Is Associated with Heavy Smoking among African American Subjects in the COPDGene Study 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(10):e0164134.
Many well-powered genome-wide association studies have identified genetic determinants of self-reported smoking behaviors and measures of nicotine dependence, but most have not considered the role of structural variants, such as copy number variation (CNVs), influencing these phenotypes. Here, we included 2,889 African American and 6,187 non-Hispanic White subjects from the COPDGene cohort ( to carefully investigate the role of polymorphic CNVs across the genome on various measures of smoking behavior. We identified a CNV component (a hemizygous deletion) on chromosome 3p26.1 associated with two quantitative phenotypes related to smoking behavior among African Americans. This polymorphic hemizygous deletion is significantly associated with pack-years and cigarettes smoked per day among African American subjects in the COPDGene study. We sought evidence of replication in African Americans from the population based Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. While we observed similar CNV counts, the extent of exposure to cigarette smoking among ARIC subjects was quite different and the smaller sample size of heavy smokers in ARIC severely limited statistical power, so we were unable to replicate our findings from the COPDGene cohort. But meta-analyses of COPDGene and ARIC study subjects strengthened our association signal. However, a few linkage studies have reported suggestive linkage to the 3p26.1 region, and a few genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have reported markers in the gene (GRM7) nearest to this 3p26.1 area of polymorphic deletions are associated with measures of nicotine dependence among subjects of European ancestry.
PMCID: PMC5053531  PMID: 27711239
4.  Whole genome prediction and heritability of childhood asthma phenotypes 
While whole genome prediction (WGP) methods have recently demonstrated successes in the prediction of complex genetic diseases, they have not yet been applied to asthma and related phenotypes. Longitudinal patterns of lung function differ between asthmatics, but these phenotypes have not been assessed for heritability or predictive ability. Herein, we assess the heritability and genetic predictability of asthma‐related phenotypes.
We applied several WGP methods to a well‐phenotyped cohort of 832 children with mild‐to‐moderate asthma from CAMP. We assessed narrow‐sense heritability and predictability for airway hyperresponsiveness, serum immunoglobulin E, blood eosinophil count, pre‐ and post‐bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 sec (FEV1), bronchodilator response, steroid responsiveness, and longitudinal patterns of lung function (normal growth, reduced growth, early decline, and their combinations). Prediction accuracy was evaluated using a training/testing set split of the cohort.
We found that longitudinal lung function phenotypes demonstrated significant narrow‐sense heritability (reduced growth, 95%; normal growth with early decline, 55%). These same phenotypes also showed significant polygenic prediction (areas under the curve [AUCs] 56% to 62%). Including additional demographic covariates in the models increased prediction 4–8%, with reduced growth increasing from 62% to 66% AUC. We found that prediction with a genomic relatedness matrix was improved by filtering available SNPs based on chromatin evidence, and this result extended across cohorts.
Longitudinal reduced lung function growth displayed extremely high heritability. All phenotypes with significant heritability showed significant polygenic prediction. Using SNP‐prioritization increased prediction across cohorts. WGP methods show promise in predicting asthma‐related heritable traits.
PMCID: PMC5134727  PMID: 27980782
Childhood asthma; heritability; longitudinal lung function patterns; polygenic prediction; whole‐genome prediction
5.  A Genome-Wide Association Study of Emphysema and Airway Quantitative Imaging Phenotypes 
Rationale: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is defined by the presence of airflow limitation on spirometry, yet subjects with COPD can have marked differences in computed tomography imaging. These differences may be driven by genetic factors. We hypothesized that a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of quantitative imaging would identify loci not previously identified in analyses of COPD or spirometry. In addition, we sought to determine whether previously described genome-wide significant COPD and spirometric loci were associated with emphysema or airway phenotypes.
Objectives: To identify genetic determinants of quantitative imaging phenotypes.
Methods: We performed a GWAS on two quantitative emphysema and two quantitative airway imaging phenotypes in the COPDGene (non-Hispanic white and African American), ECLIPSE (Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints), NETT (National Emphysema Treatment Trial), and GenKOLS (Genetics of COPD, Norway) studies and on percentage gas trapping in COPDGene. We also examined specific loci reported as genome-wide significant for spirometric phenotypes related to airflow limitation or COPD.
Measurements and Main Results: The total sample size across all cohorts was 12,031, of whom 9,338 were from COPDGene. We identified five loci associated with emphysema-related phenotypes, one with airway-related phenotypes, and two with gas trapping. These loci included previously reported associations, including the HHIP, 15q25, and AGER loci, as well as novel associations near SERPINA10 and DLC1. All previously reported COPD and a significant number of spirometric GWAS loci were at least nominally (P < 0.05) associated with either emphysema or airway phenotypes.
Conclusions: Genome-wide analysis may identify novel risk factors for quantitative imaging characteristics in COPD and also identify imaging features associated with previously identified lung function loci.
PMCID: PMC4595690  PMID: 26030696
emphysema; airway; genetics; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
6.  Common Genetic Polymorphisms Influence Blood Biomarker Measurements in COPD 
PLoS Genetics  2016;12(8):e1006011.
Implementing precision medicine for complex diseases such as chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) will require extensive use of biomarkers and an in-depth understanding of how genetic, epigenetic, and environmental variations contribute to phenotypic diversity and disease progression. A meta-analysis from two large cohorts of current and former smokers with and without COPD [SPIROMICS (N = 750); COPDGene (N = 590)] was used to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with measurement of 88 blood proteins (protein quantitative trait loci; pQTLs). PQTLs consistently replicated between the two cohorts. Features of pQTLs were compared to previously reported expression QTLs (eQTLs). Inference of causal relations of pQTL genotypes, biomarker measurements, and four clinical COPD phenotypes (airflow obstruction, emphysema, exacerbation history, and chronic bronchitis) were explored using conditional independence tests. We identified 527 highly significant (p < 8 X 10−10) pQTLs in 38 (43%) of blood proteins tested. Most pQTL SNPs were novel with low overlap to eQTL SNPs. The pQTL SNPs explained >10% of measured variation in 13 protein biomarkers, with a single SNP (rs7041; p = 10−392) explaining 71%-75% of the measured variation in vitamin D binding protein (gene = GC). Some of these pQTLs [e.g., pQTLs for VDBP, sRAGE (gene = AGER), surfactant protein D (gene = SFTPD), and TNFRSF10C] have been previously associated with COPD phenotypes. Most pQTLs were local (cis), but distant (trans) pQTL SNPs in the ABO blood group locus were the top pQTL SNPs for five proteins. The inclusion of pQTL SNPs improved the clinical predictive value for the established association of sRAGE and emphysema, and the explanation of variance (R2) for emphysema improved from 0.3 to 0.4 when the pQTL SNP was included in the model along with clinical covariates. Causal modeling provided insight into specific pQTL-disease relationships for airflow obstruction and emphysema. In conclusion, given the frequency of highly significant local pQTLs, the large amount of variance potentially explained by pQTL, and the differences observed between pQTLs and eQTLs SNPs, we recommend that protein biomarker-disease association studies take into account the potential effect of common local SNPs and that pQTLs be integrated along with eQTLs to uncover disease mechanisms. Large-scale blood biomarker studies would also benefit from close attention to the ABO blood group.
Author Summary
Precision medicine is an emerging approach that takes into account variability in genes, gene and protein expression, environment and lifestyle. Recent advances in high-throughput genome-wide genotyping, genomics, and proteomics coupled with the creation of large, highly-phenotyped clinical cohorts now allows for integration of these molecular data sets at the individual level. Here we use genome-wide genotyping and blood measurements of 88 biomarkers in 1,340 subjects from two large NIH-supported clinical cohorts of smokers (SPIROMICS and COPDGene) to identify more than 300 novel DNA variants that influence measurement of blood protein levels (pQTLs). We find that many DNA variants explain a large portion of the variability of measured protein expression in blood. Furthermore, we show that integration of DNA variants with blood biomarker levels can improve the ability of predictive models to reflect the relationship between biomarker and disease features (e.g., emphysema) within chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
PMCID: PMC4988780  PMID: 27532455
7.  A Genome-wide analysis of the response to inhaled beta2-agonists in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
The pharmacogenomics journal  2015;16(4):326-335.
Short-acting β2-agonist bronchodilators are the most common medications used in treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Genetic variants determining bronchodilator responsiveness (BDR) in COPD have not been identified.
We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of BDR in 5789 current or former smokers with COPD in one African American and four white populations. BDR was defined as the quantitative spirometric response to inhaled β2-agonists. We combined results in a meta-analysis.
In the meta-analysis, SNPs in the genes KCNK1 (P=2.02×10−7) and KCNJ2 (P=1.79×10−7) were the top associations with BDR. Among African Americans, SNPs in CDH13 were significantly associated with BDR (P=5.1×10−9). A nominal association with CDH13 was identified in a gene-based analysis in all subjects.
We identified suggestive association with BDR among COPD subjects for variants near two potassium channel genes (KCNK1 and KCNJ2). SNPs in CDH13 were significantly associated with BDR in African Americans.
PMCID: PMC4848212  PMID: 26503814
8.  Genome-Wide Association Study Identification of Novel Loci Associated with Airway Responsiveness in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Increased airway responsiveness is linked to lung function decline and mortality in subjects with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); however, the genetic contribution to airway responsiveness remains largely unknown. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) was performed using the Illumina (San Diego, CA) Human660W-Quad BeadChip on European Americans with COPD from the Lung Health Study. Linear regression models with correlated meta-analyses, including data from baseline (n = 2,814) and Year 5 (n = 2,657), were used to test for common genetic variants associated with airway responsiveness. Genotypic imputation was performed using reference 1000 Genomes Project data. Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analyses in lung tissues were assessed for the top 10 markers identified, and immunohistochemistry assays assessed protein staining for SGCD and MYH15. Four genes were identified within the top 10 associations with airway responsiveness. Markers on chromosome 9p21.2 flanked by LINGO2 met a predetermined threshold of genome-wide significance (P < 9.57 × 10−8). Markers on chromosomes 3q13.1 (flanked by MYH15), 5q33 (SGCD), and 6q21 (PDSS2) yielded suggestive evidence of association (9.57 × 10−8 < P ≤ 4.6 × 10−6). Gene expression studies in lung tissue showed single nucleotide polymorphisms on chromosomes 5 and 3 to act as eQTL for SGCD (P = 2.57 × 10−9) and MYH15 (P = 1.62 × 10−6), respectively. Immunohistochemistry confirmed localization of SGCD protein to airway smooth muscle and vessels and MYH15 to airway epithelium, vascular endothelium, and inflammatory cells. We identified novel loci associated with airway responsiveness in a GWAS among smokers with COPD. Risk alleles on chromosomes 5 and 3 acted as eQTLs for SGCD and MYH15 messenger RNA, and these proteins were expressed in lung cells relevant to the development of airway responsiveness.
PMCID: PMC4566043  PMID: 25514360
COPD; airway reactivity; bronchial responsiveness; eQTL; δ-sarcoglycan
9.  Integrating Multiple Correlated Phenotypes for Genetic Association Analysis by Maximizing Heritability 
Human heredity  2015;79(2):93-104.
Many correlated disease variables are analyzed jointly in genetic studies in the hope of increasing power to detect causal genetic variants. One approach involves assessing the relationship between each phenotype and each single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) individually and using a Bonferroni correction for the effective number of tests conducted. Alternatively, one can apply a multivariate regression or a dimension reduction technique, such as principal component analysis (PCA), and test for the association with the principal components (PC) of the phenotypes rather than the individual phenotypes. Inspired by the previous approaches of combining phenotypes to maximize heritability at individual SNPs, in this paper, we propose to construct a maximally heritable phenotype (MaxH) by taking advantage of the estimated total heritability and co-heritability. The heritability and co-heritability only need to be estimated once, therefore our method is applicable to genome-wide scans. MaxH phenotype is a linear combination of the individual phenotypes with increased heritability and power over the phenotypes being combined. Simulations show that the heritability and power achieved agree well with the theory for large samples and two phenotypes. We compare our approach with commonly used methods and assess both the heritability and the power of the MaxH phenotype. Moreover we provide suggestions for how to choose the phenotypes for combination. An application of our approach to a COPD genome-wide association study shows the practical relevance.
PMCID: PMC4508328  PMID: 26111731
Principal component of heritability; Co-heritability; GWAS; Multivariate analysis
10.  Association Between Interstitial Lung Abnormalities and All-Cause Mortality 
JAMA  2016;315(7):672-681.
Interstitial lung abnormalities have been associated with decreased six-minute walk distance, diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide and total lung capacity; however to our knowledge, an association with mortality has not been previously investigated.
To investigate whether interstitial lung abnormalities are associated with increased mortality.
Prospective cohort studies of 2633 participants from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) (CT scans obtained 9/08–3/11), 5320 from the Age Gene/Environment Susceptibility (AGES)-Reykjavik (recruited 1/02–2/06), 2068 from COPDGene (recruited 11/07–4/10), and 1670 from the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate End-points (ECLIPSE) (between 12/05–12/06).
Interstitial lung abnormality status as determined by chest CT evaluation.
All cause mortality over approximately 3 to 9 year median follow up time. Cause-of-death information was also examined in the AGES-Reykjavik cohort.
Interstitial lung abnormalities were present in 177 (7%) of the participants from FHS, 378 (7%) from AGES-Reykjavik, 156 (8%) from COPDGene, and in 157 (9%) from ECLIPSE. Over median follow-up times of ~3–9 years there were more deaths (and a greater absolute rate of mortality) among those with interstitial lung abnormalities compared to those without interstitial lung abnormalities in each cohort; 7% compared to 1% in FHS (6% difference, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2%, 10%), 56% compared to 33% in AGES-Reykjavik (23% difference, 95% CI 18%, 28%), 16% compared to 11% in COPDGene (5% difference, 95% CI −1%, 11%) and 11% compared to 5% in ECLIPSE (6% difference, 95% CI 1%, 11%). After adjustment for covariates, interstitial lung abnormalities were associated with an increase in the risk of death in the FHS (HR=2.7, 95% CI, 1.1–65, P=0.030), AGES-Reykjavik (HR 1.3, 95% CI 1.2–1.4, P<0.001), COPDGene (HR=1.8, 95% CI, 1.1, 2.8, P=0.014), and ECLIPSE (HR=1.4, 95% CI, 1.1–2, P=0.022) cohorts. In the AGES-Reykjavik cohort the higher rate of mortality could be explained by a higher rate of death due to respiratory disease, specifically pulmonary fibrosis.
In four separate research cohorts, interstitial lung abnormalities were associated with a higher risk of all-cause mortality. The clinical implications of this association require further investigation.
PMCID: PMC4828973  PMID: 26881370
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; interstitial lung disease; interstitial lung abnormalities (ILA); undiagnosed; subclinical
11.  IREB2 and GALC Are Associated with Pulmonary Artery Enlargement in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Pulmonary hypertension is associated with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), although pulmonary vascular changes occur early in the course of the disease. Pulmonary artery (PA) enlargement (PAE) measured by computed tomography correlates with pulmonary hypertension and COPD exacerbation frequency. Genome-wide association studies of PAE in subjects with COPD have not been reported. To investigate whether genetic variants are associated with PAE within subjects with COPD, we investigated data from current and former smokers from the COPDGene Study and the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints study. The ratio of the diameter of the PA to the diameter of the aorta (A) was measured using computed tomography. PAE was defined as PA/A greater than 1. A genome-wide association study for COPD with PAE was performed using subjects with COPD without PAE (PA/A ≤ 1) as a control group. A secondary analysis used smokers with normal spirometry as a control group. Genotyping was performed on Illumina platforms. The results were summarized using fixed-effect meta-analysis. Both meta-analyses revealed a genome-wide significant locus on chromosome 15q25.1 in IREB2 (COPD with versus without PAE, rs7181486; odds ratio [OR] = 1.32; P = 2.10 × 10−8; versus smoking control subjects, rs2009746; OR = 1.42; P = 1.32 × 10−9). PAE was also associated with a region on 14q31.3 near the GALC gene (rs7140285; OR = 1.55; P = 3.75 × 10−8). Genetic variants near IREB2 and GALC likely contribute to genetic susceptibility to PAE associated with COPD. This study provides evidence for genetic heterogeneity associated with a clinically important COPD vascular subtype.
PMCID: PMC4370263  PMID: 25101718
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; genome-wide association; pulmonary hypertension; subtyping
12.  A Genome-Wide Association Study of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in Hispanics 
Rationale: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have identified disease-susceptibility loci, mostly in subjects of European descent.
Objectives: We hypothesized that by studying Hispanic populations we would be able to identify unique loci that contribute to COPD pathogenesis in Hispanics but remain undetected in GWAS of non-Hispanic populations.
Methods: We conducted a metaanalysis of two GWAS of COPD in independent cohorts of Hispanics in Costa Rica and the United States (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis [MESA]). We performed a replication study of the top single-nucleotide polymorphisms in an independent Hispanic cohort in New Mexico (the Lovelace Smokers Cohort). We also attempted to replicate prior findings from genome-wide studies in non-Hispanic populations in Hispanic cohorts.
Measurements and Main Results: We found no genome-wide significant association with COPD in our metaanalysis of Costa Rica and MESA. After combining the top results from this metaanalysis with those from our replication study in the Lovelace Smokers Cohort, we identified two single-nucleotide polymorphisms approaching genome-wide significance for an association with COPD. The first (rs858249, combined P value = 6.1 × 10−8) is near the genes KLHL7 and NUPL2 on chromosome 7. The second (rs286499, combined P value = 8.4 × 10−8) is located in an intron of DLG2. The two most significant single-nucleotide polymorphisms in FAM13A from a previous genome-wide study in non-Hispanics were associated with COPD in Hispanics.
Conclusions: We have identified two novel loci (in or near the genes KLHL7/NUPL2 and DLG2) that may play a role in COPD pathogenesis in Hispanic populations.
PMCID: PMC4418314  PMID: 25584925
COPD; genome-wide association studies; Hispanics
13.  Genetic control of gene expression at novel and established chronic obstructive pulmonary disease loci 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;24(4):1200-1210.
Genetic risk loci have been identified for a wide range of diseases through genome-wide association studies (GWAS), but the relevant functional mechanisms have been identified for only a small proportion of these GWAS-identified loci. By integrating results from the largest current GWAS of chronic obstructive disease (COPD) with expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) analysis in whole blood and sputum from 121 subjects with COPD from the ECLIPSE Study, this analysis identifies loci that are simultaneously associated with COPD and the expression of nearby genes (COPD eQTLs). After integrative analysis, 19 COPD eQTLs were identified, including all four previously identified genome-wide significant loci near HHIP, FAM13A, and the 15q25 and 19q13 loci. For each COPD eQTL, fine mapping and colocalization analysis to identify causal shared eQTL and GWAS variants identified a subset of sites with moderate-to-strong evidence of harboring at least one shared variant responsible for both the eQTL and GWAS signals. Transcription factor binding site (TFBS) analysis confirms that multiple COPD eQTL lead SNPs disrupt TFBS, and enhancer enrichment analysis for loci with the strongest colocalization signals showed enrichment for blood-related cell types (CD3 and CD4+ T cells, lymphoblastoid cell lines). In summary, integrative eQTL and GWAS analysis confirms that genetic control of gene expression plays a key role in the genetic architecture of COPD and identifies specific blood-related cell types as likely participants in the functional pathway from GWAS-associated variant to disease phenotype.
PMCID: PMC4806382  PMID: 25315895
14.  Genetic regulation of expression of leukotriene A4 hydrolase 
ERJ Open Research  2016;2(1):00058-2015.
In chronic inflammatory lung disorders such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the concurrent organ-specific and systemic inflammatory responses lead to airway remodelling and vascular dysfunction. Although a major common risk factor for COPD, cigarette smoke alone cannot explain the progression of this disease; there is increasing evidence that genetic predisposition also plays a role in COPD susceptibility and progression. A key enzyme in chronic lung inflammation is leukotriene A4 hydrolase (LTA4H). With its aminopeptidase activity, LTA4H degrades the neutrophil chemoattractant tripeptide PGP.
In this study, we used the luciferase reporter gene analysis system and quantitative trait locus analysis to explore the impact of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the putative promoter region of LTA4H on LTA4H expression.
We show that not only is the putative promoter of LTA4H larger than previously reported but also that SNPs in the expanded promoter region regulate expression of LTA4H both in cell-based systems and in peripheral blood samples from human subjects.
These findings provide significant evidence for an active region upstream of the previously reported LTA4H promoter, which may have implications related to ongoing inflammatory processes in chronic lung disease.
SNPs in the putative promoter region of LTA4H specifically affect the expression of leukotriene A4 hydrolase
PMCID: PMC5005155  PMID: 27730172
15.  Dissecting genetics for chronic mucus hypersecretion in smokers with and without COPD 
Smoking is a notorious risk factor for chronic mucus hypersecretion (CMH). CMH frequently occurs in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The question arises whether the same single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are related to CMH in smokers with and without COPD.
We performed two genome wide association studies on CMH under an additive genetic model in male heavy smokers (≥20 pack-years) with COPD (n=849, 39.9% CMH) and without COPD (n=1,348, 25.4% CMH), followed by replication and meta-analysis in comparable populations, and assessment of the functional relevance of significantly associated SNPs.
GWA analysis on CMH in COPD and non-COPD yielded no genome wide significance after replication. In COPD, our top SNP (rs10461985, p=5.43×10−5) was located in the GDNF-antisense gene that is functionally associated with the GDNF gene. Expression of GDNF in bronchial biopsies of COPD patients was significantly associated with CMH (p=0.007). In non-COPD, 4 SNPs had a p-value <10−5 in the meta-analysis, including a SNP (rs4863687) in the MAML3 gene, the T-allele showing modest association with CMH (p=7.57×10−6, OR=1.48) and with significantly increased MAML3 expression in lung tissue (p=2.59×10−12).
Our data suggest the potential for differential genetic backgrounds of CMH in individuals with and without COPD.
PMCID: PMC4498483  PMID: 25234806
16.  A genome-wide association study identifies risk loci for spirometric measures among smokers of European and African ancestry 
BMC Genetics  2015;16:138.
Pulmonary function decline is a major contributor to morbidity and mortality among smokers. Post bronchodilator FEV1 and FEV1/FVC ratio are considered the standard assessment of airflow obstruction. We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 9919 current and former smokers in the COPDGene study (6659 non-Hispanic Whites [NHW] and 3260 African Americans [AA]) to identify associations with spirometric measures (post-bronchodilator FEV1 and FEV1/FVC). We also conducted meta-analysis of FEV1 and FEV1/FVC GWAS in the COPDGene, ECLIPSE, and GenKOLS cohorts (total n = 13,532).
Among NHW in the COPDGene cohort, both measures of pulmonary function were significantly associated with SNPs at the 15q25 locus [containing CHRNA3/5, AGPHD1, IREB2, CHRNB4] (lowest p-value = 2.17 × 10−11), and FEV1/FVC was associated with a genomic region on chromosome 4 [upstream of HHIP] (lowest p-value = 5.94 × 10−10); both regions have been previously associated with COPD. For the meta-analysis, in addition to confirming associations to the regions near CHRNA3/5 and HHIP, genome-wide significant associations were identified for FEV1 on chromosome 1 [TGFB2] (p-value = 8.99 × 10−9), 9 [DBH] (p-value = 9.69 × 10−9) and 19 [CYP2A6/7] (p-value = 3.49 × 10−8) and for FEV1/FVC on chromosome 1 [TGFB2] (p-value = 8.99 × 10−9), 4 [FAM13A] (p-value = 3.88 × 10−12), 11 [MMP3/12] (p-value = 3.29 × 10−10) and 14 [RIN3] (p-value = 5.64 × 10−9).
In a large genome-wide association study of lung function in smokers, we found genome-wide significant associations at several previously described loci with lung function or COPD. We additionally identified a novel genome-wide significant locus with FEV1 on chromosome 9 [DBH] in a meta-analysis of three study populations.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12863-015-0299-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4668640  PMID: 26634245
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; DBH; FEV1; FEV1/FVC; Genome-wide association study; Spirometry
17.  Risk loci for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a genome-wide association study and meta-analysis 
The Lancet. Respiratory medicine  2014;2(3):214-225.
The genetic risk factors for susceptibility to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are still largely unknown. Additional genetic variants are likely to be identified by genome-wide association studies in larger cohorts or specific subgroups.
Genome-wide association analysis in COPDGene (non-Hispanic whites and African-Americans) was combined with existing data from the ECLIPSE, NETT/NAS, and GenKOLS (Norway) studies. Analyses were performed both using all moderate-to-severe cases and the subset of severe cases. Top loci not previously described as genome-wide significant were genotyped in the ICGN study, and results combined in a joint meta-analysis.
Analysis of a total of 6,633 moderate-to-severe cases and 5,704 controls confirmed association at three known loci: CHRNA3/CHRNA5/IREB2, FAM13A, and HHIP (10−12 < P < 10−14), and also showed significant evidence of association at a novel locus near RIN3 (overall P, including ICGN = 5•4×10−9). In the severe COPD analysis (n=3,497), the effects at two of three previously described loci were significantly stronger; we also identified two additional loci previously reported to affect gene expression of MMP12 and TGFB2 (overall P = 2•6x10−9 and 8•3×10−9). RIN3 and TGFB2 expression levels were reduced in a set of Lung Tissue Research Consortium COPD lung tissue samples compared with controls.
In a genome-wide study of COPD, we confirmed associations at three known loci and found additional genome-wide significant associations with moderate-to-severe COPD near RIN3 and with severe COPD near MMP12 and TGFB2. Genetic variants, apart from alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, increase the risk of COPD. Our analysis of severe COPD suggests additional genetic variants may be identified by focusing on this subgroup.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the COPD Foundation through contributions from AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Novartis, and Sepracor; GlaxoSmithKline; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; US Department of Veterans Affairs.
PMCID: PMC4176924  PMID: 24621683
18.  Common Genetic Variants Associated with Resting Oxygenation in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Hypoxemia is a major complication of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that correlates with disease prognosis. Identifying genetic variants associated with oxygenation may provide clues for deciphering the heterogeneity in prognosis among patients with COPD. However, previous genetic studies have been restricted to investigating COPD candidate genes for association with hypoxemia. To report results from the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) of resting oxygen saturation (as measured by pulse oximetry [Spo2]) in subjects with COPD, we performed a GWAS of Spo2 in two large, well characterized COPD populations: COPDGene, including both the non-Hispanic white (NHW) and African American (AA) groups, and Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints (ECLIPSE). We identified several suggestive loci (P < 1 × 10−5) associated with Spo2 in COPDGene in the NHW (n = 2810) and ECLIPSE (n = 1758) groups, and two loci on chromosomes 14 and 15 in the AA group (n = 820) from COPDGene achieving a level of genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10−8). The chromosome 14 single-nucleotide polymorphism, rs6576132, located in an intergenic region, was nominally replicated (P < 0.05) in the NHW group from COPDGene. The chromosome 15 single-nucleotide polymorphisms were rare in subjects of European ancestry, so the results could not be replicated. The chromosome 15 region contains several genes, including TICRR and KIF7, and is proximal to RHCG (Rh family C glyocoprotein gene). We have identified two loci associated with resting oxygen saturation in AA subjects with COPD, and several suggestive regions in subjects of European descent with COPD. Our study highlights the importance of investigating the genetics of complex traits in different racial groups.
PMCID: PMC4224086  PMID: 24825563
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; hypoxemia; pulse oximetry; genome-wide association study; oxygen saturation
Respiratory medicine  2014;108(10):1469-1480.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by marked phenotypic heterogeneity. Most previous studies have focused on COPD subjects with FEV1 < 80% predicted. We investigated the clinical and genetic heterogeneity in subjects with mild airflow limitation in spirometry grade 1 defined by the Global Initiative for chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD 1).
Data from current and former smokers participating in the COPDGene Study (NCT00608764) were analyzed. K-means clustering was performed to explore subtypes within 794 GOLD 1 subjects. For all subjects with GOLD 1 and with each cluster, a genome-wide association study and candidate gene testing were performed using smokers with normal lung function as a control group. Combinations of COPD genome-wide significant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were tested for association with FEV1 (% predicted) in GOLD 1 and in a combined group of GOLD1 and smoking control subjects.
K-means clustering of GOLD 1 subjects identified putative “near-normal”, “airway-predominant”, “emphysema-predominant” and “lowest FEV1 % predicted” subtypes. In non-Hispanic whites, the only SNP nominally associated with GOLD 1 status relative to smoking controls was rs7671167 (FAM13A) in logistic regression models with adjustment for age, sex, pack-years of smoking, and genetic ancestry. The emphysema-predominant GOLD 1 cluster was nominally associated with rs7671167 (FAM13A) and rs161976 (BICD1). The lowest FEV1 % predicted cluster was nominally associated with rs1980057 (HHIP) and rs1051730 (CHRNA3). Combinations of COPD genome-wide significant SNPs were associated with FEV1 (% predicted) in a combined group of GOLD 1 and smoking control subjects.
Our results indicate that GOLD 1 subjects show substantial clinical heterogeneity, which is at least partially related to genetic heterogeneity.
PMCID: PMC4253548  PMID: 25154699
pulmonary disease; chronic obstructive; population characteristics; cluster analysis; genetic association
20.  Beyond GWAS in COPD: Probing the landscape between gene-set associations, genome-wide associations and protein-protein interaction networks 
Human heredity  2014;78(0):131-139.
To use a systems biology approach to integrate genotype and protein-protein interaction (PPI) data to identify disease network modules associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and to perform traditional pathway analysis.
We used a standard gene-set association approach (FORGE) using gene-based association analysis and gene-set definitions from the molecular signatures database (MSigDB). As a discovery step we analyzed GWAS results from two well-characterized COPD cohorts, COPDGene and GenKOLS. We used a third well-characterized COPD case-control cohort for replication, ECLIPSE. Next, we used dmGWAS, a method that integrates GWAS results with PPI, to identify COPD disease modules.
No gene-sets reached experiment-wide significance in either discovery population. We identified a consensus network of 10 genes identified in modules by integrating GWAS results with PPI that replicated in COPDGene, GenKOLS, and ECLIPSE. Members of four gene-sets were enriched among these 10 genes: (i) lung adenocarcinoma tumor sequencing genes, (ii) IL7 pathway genes, (iii) kidney cell response to arsenic, and (iv) CD4 T cell responses. Further, several genes have also been associated with pathophysiology relevant to COPD including KCNK3, NEDD4L and RIN3. In particular, KCNK3 has been associated with pulmonary arterial hypertension, a common complication in advanced COPD.
We report a set of new genes that may influence the etiology of COPD that would not have been identified using traditional GWAS and pathway analyses alone.
PMCID: PMC4415367  PMID: 25171373
COPD; genome-wide scan; protein-protein interaction network; gene-set association; pathway association; disease module
21.  Genome-Wide Association Identifies Regulatory Loci Associated with Distinct Local Histogram Emphysema Patterns 
Rationale: Emphysema is a heritable trait that occurs in smokers with and without chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Emphysema occurs in distinct pathologic patterns, but the genetic determinants of these patterns are unknown.
Objectives: To identify genetic loci associated with distinct patterns of emphysema in smokers and investigate the regulatory function of these loci.
Methods: Quantitative measures of distinct emphysema patterns were generated from computed tomography scans from smokers in the COPDGene Study using the local histogram emphysema quantification method. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) were performed in 9,614 subjects for five emphysema patterns, and the results were referenced against enhancer and DNase I hypersensitive regions from ENCODE and Roadmap Epigenomics cell lines.
Measurements and Main Results: Genome-wide significant associations were identified for seven loci. Two are novel associations (top single-nucleotide polymorphism rs379123 in MYO1D and rs9590614 in VMA8) located within genes that function in cell-cell signaling and cell migration, and five are in loci previously associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease susceptibility (HHIP, IREB2/CHRNA3, CYP2A6/ADCK, TGFB2, and MMP12). Five of these seven loci lay within enhancer or DNase I hypersensitivity regions in lung fibroblasts or small airway epithelial cells, respectively. Enhancer enrichment analysis for top GWAS associations (single-nucleotide polymorphisms associated at P < 5 × 10−6) identified multiple cell lines with significant enhancer enrichment among top GWAS loci, including lung fibroblasts.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates for the first time genetic associations with distinct patterns of pulmonary emphysema quantified by computed tomography scan. Enhancer regions are significantly enriched among these GWAS results, with pulmonary fibroblasts among the cell types showing the strongest enrichment.
PMCID: PMC4214129  PMID: 25006744
emphysema; COPD; genetics; gene regulation; spiral computed tomography
23.  Cluster Analysis in the COPDGene Study Identifies Subtypes of Smokers with Distinct Patterns of Airway Disease and Emphysema 
Thorax  2014;69(5):416-423.
There is notable heterogeneity in the clinical presentation of patients with COPD. To characterize this heterogeneity, we sought to identify subgroups of smokers by applying cluster analysis to data from the COPDGene Study.
We applied a clustering method, k-means, to data from 10,192 smokers in the COPDGene Study. After splitting the sample into a training and validation set, we evaluated three sets of input features across a range of k (user-specified number of clusters). Stable solutions were tested for association with four COPD-related measures and five genetic variants previously associated with COPD at genome-wide significance. The results were confirmed in the validation set.
We identified four clusters that can be characterized as 1) relatively resistant smokers (i.e. no/mild obstruction and minimal emphysema despite heavy smoking), 2) mild upper zone emphysema predominant, 3) airway disease predominant, and 4) severe emphysema. All clusters are strongly associated with COPD-related clinical characteristics, including exacerbations and dyspnea (p<0.001). We found strong genetic associations between the mild upper zone emphysema group and rs1980057 near HHIP, and between the severe emphysema group and rs8034191 in the chromosome 15q region (p<0.001). All significant associations were replicated at p<0.05 in the validation sample (12/12 associations with clinical measures and 2/2 genetic associations).
Cluster analysis identifies four subgroups of smokers that show robust associations with clinical characteristics of COPD and known COPD-associated genetic variants.
PMCID: PMC4004338  PMID: 24563194
24.  Quantitative Computed Tomography Measures of Pectoralis Muscle Area and Disease Severity in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. A Cross-Sectional Study 
Rationale: Muscle wasting in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with a poor prognosis and is not readily assessed by measures of body mass index (BMI). BMI does not discriminate between relative proportions of adipose tissue and lean muscle and may be insensitive to early pathologic changes in body composition. Computed tomography (CT)–based assessments of the pectoralis muscles may provide insight into the clinical significance of skeletal muscles in smokers.
Objectives: We hypothesized that objective assessment of the pectoralis muscle area on chest CT scans provides information that is clinically relevant and independent of BMI.
Methods: Data from the ECLIPSE (Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints) Study (n = 73) were used to assess the relationship between pectoralis muscle area and fat-free mass. We then used data in a subset (n = 966) of a larger cohort, the COPDGene (COPD Genetic Epidemiology) Study, to explore the relationship between pectoralis muscle area and COPD-related traits.
Measurements and Main Results: We first investigated the correlation between pectoralis muscle area and fat-free mass, using data from a subset of participants in the ECLIPSE Study. We then further investigated pectoralis muscle area in COPDGene Study participants and found that higher pectoralis muscle area values were associated with greater height, male sex, and younger age. On subsequent clinical correlation, compared with BMI, pectoralis muscle area was more significantly associated with COPD-related traits, including spirometric measures, dyspnea, and 6-minute-walk distance (6MWD). For example, on average, each 10-cm2 increase in pectoralis muscle area was associated with a 0.8-unit decrease in the BODE (Body mass index, Obstruction, Dyspnea, Exercise) index (95% confidence interval, –1.0 to –0.6; P < 0.001). Furthermore, statistically significant associations between pectoralis muscle area and COPD-related traits remained even after adjustment for BMI.
Conclusions: CT-derived pectoralis muscle area provides relevant indices of COPD morbidity that may be more predictive of important COPD-related traits than BMI. However, the relationship with clinically relevant outcomes such as hospitalization and death requires additional investigation. Pectoralis muscle area is a convenient measure that can be collected in the clinical setting in addition to BMI.
PMCID: PMC4028743  PMID: 24558953
COPD; wasting; pectoral muscle area; imaging
25.  Comorbidities of COPD have a major impact on clinical outcomes, particularly in African Americans 
COPD patients have a great burden of comorbidity. However, it is not well established whether this is due to shared risk factors such as smoking, if they impact patients exercise capacity and quality of life, or whether there are racial disparities in their impact on COPD.
We analyzed data from 10,192 current and ex-smokers with (cases) and without COPD (controls) from the COPDGene® cohort to establish risk for COPD comorbidities adjusted for pertinent covariates. In adjusted models, we examined comorbidities prevalence and impact in African-Americans (AA) and Non-Hispanic Whites (NHW).
Comorbidities are more common in COPD compared to those with normal spirometry (controls), and the risk persists after adjustments for covariates including pack-years smoked. After adjustment for confounders, eight conditions were independently associated with worse exercise capacity, quality of life and dyspnea. There were racial disparities in the impact of comorbidities on exercise capacity, dyspnea and quality of life, presence of osteoarthritis and gastroesophageal reflux disease having a greater negative impact on all three outcomes in AAs than NHWs (p<0.05 for all interaction terms).
Individuals with COPD have a higher risk for comorbidities than controls, an important finding shown for the first time comprehensively after accounting for confounders. Individual comorbidities are associated with worse exercise capacity, quality of life, and dyspnea, in African-Americans compared to non-Hispanic Whites.
PMCID: PMC4329763  PMID: 25695106
COPD; Comorbidities; Race

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