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2.  MUC5B Promoter Polymorphism and Interstitial Lung Abnormalities 
The New England journal of medicine  2013;368(23):2192-2200.
A common promoter polymorphism (rs35705950) in MUC5B, the gene encoding mucin 5B, is associated with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. It is not known whether this polymorphism is associated with interstitial lung disease in the general population.
We performed a blinded assessment of interstitial lung abnormalities detected in 2633 participants in the Framingham Heart Study by means of volumetric chest computed tomography (CT). We evaluated the relationship between the abnormalities and the genotype at the rs35705950 locus.
Of the 2633 chest CT scans that were evaluated, interstitial lung abnormalities were present in 177 (7%). Participants with such abnormalities were more likely to have shortness of breath and chronic cough and reduced measures of total lung and diffusion capacity, as compared with participants without such abnormalities. After adjustment for covariates, for each copy of the minor rs35705950 allele, the odds of interstitial lung abnormalities were 2.8 times greater (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.0 to 3.9; P<0.001), and the odds of definite CT evidence of pulmonary fibrosis were 6.3 times greater (95% CI, 3.1 to 12.7; P<0.001). Although the evidence of an association between the MUC5B genotype and interstitial lung abnormalities was greater among participants who were older than 50 years of age, a history of cigarette smoking did not appear to influence the association.
The MUC5B promoter polymorphism was found to be associated with interstitial lung disease in the general population. Although this association was more apparent in older persons, it did not appear to be influenced by cigarette smoking. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others; number, NCT00005121.)
PMCID: PMC3747636  PMID: 23692170
3.  The Impact of Self-Identified Race on Epidemiologic Studies of Gene Expression 
Genetic epidemiology  2011;35(2):93-101.
Although population differences in gene expression have been established, the impact on differential gene expression studies in large populations is not well understood. We describe the effect of self-reported race on a gene expression study of lung function in asthma. We generated gene expression profiles for 254 young adults (205 non-Hispanic whites and 49 African Americans) with asthma on whom concurrent total RNA derived from peripheral blood CD4+ lymphocytes and lung function measurements were obtained. We identified four principal components that explained 62% of the variance in gene expression. The dominant principal component, which explained 29% of the total variance in gene expression, was strongly associated with self-identified race (P<10−16). The impact of these racial differences was observed when we performed differential gene expression analysis of lung function. Using multivariate linear models, we tested whether gene expression was associated with a quantitative measure of lung function: pre-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1). Though unadjusted linear models of FEV1 identified several genes strongly correlated with lung function, these correlations were due to racial differences in the distribution of both FEV1 and gene expression, and were no longer statistically significant following adjustment for self-identified race. These results suggest that self-identified race is a critical confounding covariate in epidemiologic studies of gene expression and that, similar to genetic studies, careful consideration of self-identified race in gene expression profiling studies is needed to avoid spurious association.
PMCID: PMC3718033  PMID: 21254216
ancestry; gene expression; population stratification; self-identified race
4.  Inflammasome-regulated Cytokines Are Critical Mediators of Acute Lung Injury 
Rationale: Despite advances in clinical management, there are currently no reliable diagnostic and therapeutic targets for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The inflammasome/caspase-1 pathway regulates the maturation and secretion of proinflammatory cytokines (e.g., IL-18). IL-18 is associated with injury in animal models of systemic inflammation.
Objectives: We sought to determine the contribution of the inflammasome pathway in experimental acute lung injury and human ARDS.
Methods: We performed comprehensive gene expression profiling on peripheral blood from patients with critical illness. Gene expression changes were assessed using real-time polymerase chain reaction, and IL-18 levels were measured in the plasma of the critically ill patients. Wild-type mice or mice genetically deficient in IL-18 or caspase-1 were mechanically ventilated using moderate tidal volume (12 ml/kg). Lung injury parameters were assessed in lung tissue, serum, and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid.
Measurements and Main Results: In mice, mechanical ventilation enhanced IL-18 levels in the lung, serum, and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid. IL-18–neutralizing antibody treatment, or genetic deletion of IL-18 or caspase-1, reduced lung injury in response to mechanical ventilation. In human patients with ARDS, inflammasome-related mRNA transcripts (CASP1, IL1B, and IL18) were increased in peripheral blood. In samples from four clinical centers, IL-18 was elevated in the plasma of patients with ARDS (sepsis or trauma-induced ARDS) and served as a novel biomarker of intensive care unit morbidity and mortality.
Conclusions: The inflammasome pathway and its downstream cytokines play critical roles in ARDS development.
PMCID: PMC3373064  PMID: 22461369
acute respiratory distress syndrome; inflammasome; interleukin-18; mechanical ventilation
5.  Subclinical Interstitial Lung Disease 
The widespread use of high-resolution computed tomography in clinical and research settings has increased the detection of interstitial lung abnormalities (ILA) in asymptomatic and undiagnosed individuals. We reported that in smokers, ILA were present in about 1 of every 12 high-resolution computed tomographic scans; however, the long-term significance of these subclinical changes remains unclear. Studies in families affected with pulmonary fibrosis, smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and patients with inflammatory lung disease have shown that asymptomatic and undiagnosed individuals with ILA have reductions in lung volume, functional limitations, increased pulmonary symptoms, histopathologic changes, and molecular profiles similar to those observed in patients with clinically significant interstitial lung disease (ILD). These findings suggest that, in select at-risk populations, ILA may represent early stages of pulmonary fibrosis or subclinical ILD. The growing interest surrounding this topic is motivated by our poor understanding of the inciting events and natural history of ILD, coupled with a lack of effective therapies. In this perspective, we outline past and current research focused on validating radiologic, physiological, and molecular methods to detect subclinical ILD. We discuss the limitations of the available cross-sectional studies and the need for future longitudinal studies to determine the prognostic and therapeutic implications of subclinical ILD in populations at risk of developing clinically significant ILD.
PMCID: PMC3373068  PMID: 22366047
interstitial lung disease; interstitial lung abnormalities; familial pulmonary fibrosis; rheumatoid arthritis; smoking
6.  Lung Volumes and Emphysema in Smokers with Interstitial Lung Abnormalities 
The New England journal of medicine  2011;364(10):897-906.
Cigarette smoking is associated with emphysema and radiographic interstitial lung abnormalities. The degree to which interstitial lung abnormalities are associated with reduced total lung capacity and the extent of emphysema is not known.
We looked for interstitial lung abnormalities in 2416 (96%) of 2508 high-resolution computed tomographic (HRCT) scans of the lung obtained from a cohort of smokers. We used linear and logistic regression to evaluate the associations between interstitial lung abnormalities and HRCT measurements of total lung capacity and emphysema.
Interstitial lung abnormalities were present in 194 (8%) of the 2416 HRCT scans evaluated. In statistical models adjusting for relevant covariates, interstitial lung abnormalities were associated with reduced total lung capacity (−0.444 liters; 95% confidence interval [CI], −0.596 to −0.292; P<0.001) and a lower percentage of emphysema defined by lung-attenuation thresholds of −950 Hounsfield units (−3%; 95% CI, −4 to −2; P<0.001) and −910 Hounsfield units (−10%; 95% CI, −12 to −8; P<0.001). As compared with participants without interstitial lung abnormalities, those with abnormalities were more likely to have a restrictive lung deficit (total lung capacity <80% of the predicted value; odds ratio, 2.3; 95% CI, 1.4 to 3.7; P<0.001) and were less likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (odds ratio, 0.53; 95% CI, 0.37 to 0.76; P<0.001). The effect of interstitial lung abnormalities on total lung capacity and emphysema was dependent on COPD status (P<0.02 for the interactions). Interstitial lung abnormalities were positively associated with both greater exposure to tobacco smoke and current smoking.
In smokers, interstitial lung abnormalities — which were present on about 1 of every 12 HRCT scans — were associated with reduced total lung capacity and a lesser amount of emphysema. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Parker B. Francis Foundation; number, NCT00608764.)
PMCID: PMC3074462  PMID: 21388308
7.  A Genome Wide Association Study of Plasma Total IgE Concentration in the Framingham Heart Study 
Atopy and plasma IgE concentration are genetically complex traits, and the specific genetic risk factors that lead to IgE dysregulation and clinical atopy are an area of active investigation.
To ascertain the genetic risk factors which lead to IgE dysregulation.
A genome wide association study (GWAS) was performed in 6,819 participants from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS). Seventy of the top SNPs were selected based on p-values and linkage disequilibrium among neighboring SNPs and evaluated in a meta-analysis with five independent populations from the KORA, B58C, and CAMP cohorts.
Thirteen SNPs located in the region of three genes, FCER1A, STAT6, and IL-13, were found to have genome-wide significance in the FHS GWAS. The most significant SNPs from the three regions were rs2251746 (FCER1A, p-value 2.11×10-12), rs1059513 (STAT6, p-value 2.87×10-08), and rs1295686 (IL-13, p-value 3.55×10-08). Four additional gene regions - HLA-G, HLA-DQA2, HLA-A, and DARC - reached genome-wide statistical significance in meta-analysis combining FHS and replication cohorts, although the DARC association did not appear independent of SNPs in the nearby FCER1A gene.
This GWAS of the FHS has identified genetic loci in HLA genes that may have a role in the pathogenesis of IgE dysregulation and atopy. It also confirmed the association of known susceptibility loci, FCER1A, STAT6, and IL-13, for the dysregulation of total IgE.
PMCID: PMC3293994  PMID: 22075330
total IgE; atopy; asthma; GWAS
8.  MicroRNA-181b regulates NF-κB–mediated vascular inflammation 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(6):1973-1990.
EC activation and dysfunction have been linked to a variety of vascular inflammatory disease states. The function of microRNAs (miRNAs) in vascular EC activation and inflammation remains poorly understood. Herein, we report that microRNA-181b (miR-181b) serves as a potent regulator of downstream NF-κB signaling in the vascular endothelium by targeting importin-α3, a protein that is required for nuclear translocation of NF-κB. Overexpression of miR-181b inhibited importin-α3 expression and an enriched set of NF-κB–responsive genes such as adhesion molecules VCAM-1 and E-selectin in ECs in vitro and in vivo. In addition, treatment of mice with proinflammatory stimuli reduced miR-181b expression. Rescue of miR-181b levels by systemic administration of miR-181b “mimics” reduced downstream NF-κB signaling and leukocyte influx in the vascular endothelium and decreased lung injury and mortality in endotoxemic mice. In contrast, miR-181b inhibition exacerbated endotoxin-induced NF-κB activity, leukocyte influx, and lung injury. Finally, we observed that critically ill patients with sepsis had reduced levels of miR-181b compared with control intensive care unit (ICU) subjects. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that miR-181b regulates NF-κB–mediated EC activation and vascular inflammation in response to proinflammatory stimuli and that rescue of miR-181b expression could provide a new target for antiinflammatory therapy and critical illness.
PMCID: PMC3366408  PMID: 22622040
9.  The CD4+ T-cell transcriptome and serum IgE in asthma: IL17RB and the role of sex 
The relationships between total serum IgE levels and gene expression patterns in peripheral blood CD4+ T cells (in all subjects and within each sex specifically) are not known.
Peripheral blood CD4+ T cells from 223 participants from the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) with simultaneous measurement of IgE. Total RNA was isolated, and expression profiles were generated with Illumina HumanRef8 v2 BeadChip arrays. Modeling of the relationship between genome-wide gene transcript levels and IgE levels was performed in all subjects, and stratified by sex.
Among all subjects, significant evidence for association between gene transcript abundance and IgE was identified for a single gene, the interleukin 17 receptor B (IL17RB), explaining 12% of the variance (r2) in IgE measurement (p value = 7 × 10-7, 9 × 10-3 after adjustment for multiple testing). Sex stratified analyses revealed that the correlation between IL17RB and IgE was restricted to males only (r2 = 0.19, p value = 8 × 10-8; test for sex-interaction p < 0.05). Significant correlation between gene transcript abundance and IgE level was not found in females. Additionally we demonstrated substantial sex-specific differences in IgE when considering multi-gene models, and in canonical pathway analyses of IgE level.
Our results indicate that IL17RB may be the only gene expressed in CD4+ T cells whose transcript measurement is correlated with the variation in IgE level in asthmatics. These results provide further evidence sex may play a role in the genomic regulation of IgE.
PMCID: PMC3080837  PMID: 21473777
10.  Identification of Early Interstitial Lung Disease in Smokers from the COPDGene Study 
Academic radiology  2009;17(1):48-53.
Rationale and Objectives
To compare two subjective methods for the identification of changes suggestive of early interstitial lung disease (ILD) on chest computed tomographic (CT) scan.
Materials and Methods
The CT scans of the first 100 subjects enrolled in the COPDGene Study from a single institution were examined using a sequential reader and a group consensus interpretation scheme. CTs were evaluated for the presence of parenchymal changes consistent with ILD using a scoring system of “0” or normal, “1” or equivocal for the presence of ILD, “2” highly suspicious for ILD, “3” classic ILD changes. A statistical comparison of early ILD cases with normal subjects was performed.
There was a high degree of agreement between methods (Kappa 0.84 95% CI (0.73–0.94) P <0.0001 for the sequential and consensus methods). The sequential reading method had both high positive (1) and negative values (0.97) for predicting a consensus read despite a 58% reduction in the number of chest CT evaluations. Regardless of interpretation method, the prevalence of chest CT changes consistent with early ILD in this subset of smokers from COPDGene varies between 5–10%. Subjects with early ILD tended to have greater tobacco smoke exposure than subjects without early ILD (P=0.053).
A sequential CT interpretation scheme is efficient method for the visual interpretation of CT data. Further investigation is required to independently confirm our findings and further characterize early ILD in smokers.
PMCID: PMC2790552  PMID: 19781963
Early Interstitial Lung Disease; CT scan; Smoker
11.  TSLP Polymorphisms are Associated with Asthma in a Sex-Specific Fashion 
Allergy  2010;65(12):1566-1575.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) have been associated with IgE (in girls) and asthma (in general). We sought to determine whether TSLP SNPs are associated with asthma in a sex-specific fashion.
We conducted regular and sex-stratified analyses of association between SNPs in TSLP and asthma in families of asthmatic children in Costa Rica. Significant findings were replicated in white and African-American participants in the Childhood Asthma Management Program, in African Americans in the Genomic Research on Asthma in the African Diaspora study, in whites and Hispanics in the Children’s Health Study, and in whites in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS).
Main Results
Two SNPs in TSLP (rs1837253 and rs2289276) were significantly associated with a reduced risk of asthma in combined analyses of all cohorts (p values of 2×10−5 and 1×10−5, respectively). In a sex-stratified analysis, the T allele of rs1837253 was significantly associated with a reduced risk of asthma in males only (p= 3×10−6). Alternately, the T allele of rs2289276 was significantly associated with a reduced risk of asthma in females only (p= 2×10−4). Findings for rs2289276 were consistent in all cohorts except the FHS.
TSLP variants are associated with asthma in a sex-specific fashion.
PMCID: PMC2970693  PMID: 20560908
asthma; genetic association; sex-specific; thymic stromal lymphopoietin; TSLP
12.  Variants in FAM13A are associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
Nature genetics  2010;42(3):200-202.
Substantial evidence suggests that there is genetic susceptibility to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). To identify common genetic risk variants, we performed a genome-wide association study in 2940 cases and 1380 smoking controls with normal lung function. We demonstrate a novel susceptibility locus at 4q22.1 in FAM13A (rs7671167, OR=0.76, P=8.6×10−8) and provide evidence of replication in one case-control and two family-based cohorts (for all studies, combined P=1.2×10−11).
PMCID: PMC2828499  PMID: 20173748
13.  Asthma-susceptibility variants identified using probands in case-control and family-based analyses 
BMC Medical Genetics  2010;11:122.
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease whose genetic basis has been explored for over two decades, most recently via genome-wide association studies. We sought to find asthma-susceptibility variants by using probands from a single population in both family-based and case-control association designs.
We used probands from the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) in two primary genome-wide association study designs: (1) probands were combined with publicly available population controls in a case-control design, and (2) probands and their parents were used in a family-based design. We followed a two-stage replication process utilizing three independent populations to validate our primary findings.
We found that single nucleotide polymorphisms with similar case-control and family-based association results were more likely to replicate in the independent populations, than those with the smallest p-values in either the case-control or family-based design alone. The single nucleotide polymorphism that showed the strongest evidence for association to asthma was rs17572584, which replicated in 2/3 independent populations with an overall p-value among replication populations of 3.5E-05. This variant is near a gene that encodes an enzyme that has been implicated to act coordinately with modulators of Th2 cell differentiation and is expressed in human lung.
Our results suggest that using probands from family-based studies in case-control designs, and combining results of both family-based and case-control approaches, may be a way to augment our ability to find SNPs associated with asthma and other complex diseases.
PMCID: PMC2927535  PMID: 20698975
14.  MMP12, Lung Function, and COPD in High-Risk Populations 
The New England journal of medicine  2009;361(27):2599-2608.
Genetic variants influencing lung function in children and adults may ultimately lead to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), particularly in high-risk groups.
We tested for an association between single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the gene encoding matrix metalloproteinase 12 (MMP12) and a measure of lung function (prebronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 second [FEV1]) in more than 8300 subjects in seven cohorts that included children and adults. Within the Normative Aging Study (NAS), a cohort of initially healthy adult men, we tested for an association between SNPs that were associated with FEV1 and the time to the onset of COPD. We then examined the relationship between MMP12 SNPs and COPD in two cohorts of adults with COPD or at risk for COPD.
The minor allele (G) of a functional variant in the promoter region of MMP12 (rs2276109 [−82A→G]) was positively associated with FEV1 in a combined analysis of children with asthma and adult former and current smokers in all cohorts (P=2×10−6). This allele was also associated with a reduced risk of the onset of COPD in the NAS cohort (hazard ratio, 0.65; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.46 to 0.92; P = 0.02) and with a reduced risk of COPD in a cohort of smokers (odds ratio, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.45 to 0.88; P = 0.005) and among participants in a family-based study of early-onset COPD (P = 0.006).
The minor allele of a SNP in MMP12 (rs2276109) is associated with a positive effect on lung function in children with asthma and in adults who smoke. This allele is also associated with a reduced risk of COPD in adult smokers.
PMCID: PMC2904064  PMID: 20018959
15.  Serum Vitamin D Levels and Markers of Severity of Childhood Asthma in Costa Rica 
Rationale: Maternal vitamin D intake during pregnancy has been inversely associated with asthma symptoms in early childhood. However, no study has examined the relationship between measured vitamin D levels and markers of asthma severity in childhood.
Objectives: To determine the relationship between measured vitamin D levels and both markers of asthma severity and allergy in childhood.
Methods: We examined the relation between 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels (the major circulating form of vitamin D) and markers of allergy and asthma severity in a cross-sectional study of 616 Costa Rican children between the ages of 6 and 14 years. Linear, logistic, and negative binomial regressions were used for the univariate and multivariate analyses.
Measurements and Main Results: Of the 616 children with asthma, 175 (28%) had insufficient levels of vitamin D (<30 ng/ml). In multivariate linear regression models, vitamin D levels were significantly and inversely associated with total IgE and eosinophil count. In multivariate logistic regression models, a log10 unit increase in vitamin D levels was associated with reduced odds of any hospitalization in the previous year (odds ratio [OR], 0.05; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.004–0.71; P = 0.03), any use of antiinflammatory medications in the previous year (OR, 0.18; 95% CI, 0.05–0.67; P = 0.01), and increased airway responsiveness (a ≤8.58-μmol provocative dose of methacholine producing a 20% fall in baseline FEV1 [OR, 0.15; 95% CI, 0.024–0.97; P = 0.05]).
Conclusions: Our results suggest that vitamin D insufficiency is relatively frequent in an equatorial population of children with asthma. In these children, lower vitamin D levels are associated with increased markers of allergy and asthma severity.
PMCID: PMC2675563  PMID: 19179486
16.  Variants in TGFB1, Dust Mite Exposure, and Disease Severity in Children with Asthma 
Rationale: Polymorphisms in the gene for transforming growth factor-β1 (TGFB1) have been associated with asthma, but not with airway responsiveness or disease exacerbations in subjects with asthma.
Objectives: To test for association between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in TGFB1 and markers of asthma severity in childhood.
Methods: We tested for the association between nine SNPs in TGFB1 and indicators of asthma severity (lung function, airway responsiveness, and disease exacerbations) in two cohorts: 416 Costa Rican parent-child trios and 465 families of non-Hispanic white children in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP). We also tested for the interaction between these polymorphisms and exposure to dust mite allergen on asthma severity.
Measurements and Main Results: The A allele of promoter SNP rs2241712 was associated with increased airway responsiveness in Costa Rica (P = 0.0006) and CAMP (P = 0.005), and the C allele of an SNP in the promoter region (rs1800469) was associated with increased airway responsiveness in both cohorts (P ≤ 0.01). Dust mite exposure modified the effect of the C allele of exonic SNP rs1800471 on airway responsiveness (P = 0.03 for interactions in both cohorts). The T allele of a coding SNP (rs1982073) was associated with a reduced risk of asthma exacerbations in Costa Rica (P = 0.009) and CAMP (P = 0.005). Dust mite exposure also significantly modified the effect of the A allele of the promoter SNP rs2241712 on asthma exacerbations in both cohorts.
Conclusions: SNPs in TGFB1 are associated with airway responsiveness and disease exacerbations in children with asthma. Moreover, dust mite exposure may modify the effect of TGFB1 SNPs on airway responsiveness and asthma exacerbations.
PMCID: PMC2648908  PMID: 19096005
airway responsiveness; asthma; dust mite allergen; single nucleotide polymorphisms; transforming growth factor-β1
17.  Sex-stratified Linkage Analysis Identifies a Female-specific Locus for IgE to Cockroach in Costa Ricans 
Rationale: The basis for gender influences on allergen-specific IgEs is unclear.
Objectives: To perform regular and sex-stratified genomewide linkage analyses of IgE to each of three allergens (Ascaris lumbricoides, Blatella germanica [German cockroach]), and Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus [dust mite]) and to conduct an association study of a candidate gene in a linked genomic region.
Methods: Genomewide linkage analyses of allergen-specific IgEs were conducted in 653 members of eight large families of Costa Rican children with asthma. An analysis of the association between single-nucleotide polymorphisms in thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) and IgE measurements was conducted in 417 parent–child trios in Costa Rica. Significant results were replicated in 470 families of white children in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP).
Measurements and Main Results: Among all subjects, there was suggestive evidence of linkage (LOD ⩾ 2.72) to IgE to Ascaris (on chromosome 7q) and IgE to dust mite (on chromosomes 7p and 12q). In a sex-stratified analysis, there was significant evidence of linkage to IgE to cockroach on chromosome 5q23 (peak LOD, 4.14 at 127 cM) in female subjects. TSLP is located within the 1.5 LOD-unit support interval for this linkage peak and has female-specific effects on lung disease in mice. In a sex-stratified analysis, the T allele of single-nucleotide polymorphism rs2289276 in TSLP was associated with reductions in IgE to cockroach (in Costa Rican girls) and total IgE (in girls in Costa Rica and in CAMP; P value for sex-by-genotype interaction, <0.01 in both studies).
Conclusions: Consistent with findings in murine models, a variant in TSLP may have female-specific effects on allergic phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC2292826  PMID: 18244952
immunoglobulin E; linkage; thymic stromal lymphopoietin; single-nucleotide polymorphisms
18.  Genes to Diseases (G2D) Computational Method to Identify Asthma Candidate Genes 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(8):e2907.
Asthma is a complex trait for which different strategies have been used to identify its environmental and genetic predisposing factors. Here, we describe a novel methodological approach to select candidate genes for asthma genetic association studies. In this regard, the Genes to Diseases (G2D) computational tool has been used in combination with a genome-wide scan performed in a sub-sample of the Saguenay−Lac-St-Jean (SLSJ) asthmatic familial collection (n = 609) to identify candidate genes located in two suggestive loci shown to be linked with asthma (6q26) and atopy (10q26.3), and presenting differential parent-of-origin effects. This approach combined gene selection based on the G2D data mining analysis of the bibliographic and protein public databases, or according to the genes already known to be associated with the same or a similar phenotype. Ten genes (LPA, NOX3, SNX9, VIL2, VIP, ADAM8, DOCK1, FANK1, GPR123 and PTPRE) were selected for a subsequent association study performed in a large SLSJ sample (n = 1167) of individuals tested for asthma and atopy related phenotypes. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (n = 91) within the candidate genes were genotyped and analysed using a family-based association test. The results suggest a protective association to allergic asthma for PTPRE rs7081735 in the SLSJ sample (p = 0.000463; corrected p = 0.0478). This association has not been replicated in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) cohort. Sequencing of the regions around rs7081735 revealed additional polymorphisms, but additional genotyping did not yield new associations. These results demonstrate that the G2D tool can be useful in the selection of candidate genes located in chromosomal regions linked to a complex trait.
PMCID: PMC2488373  PMID: 18682798
19.  Polymorphisms in IL12A and cockroach allergy in children with asthma 
IL12A has been implicated in T-cell development and may thus influence the development of atopy and allergic diseases.
We tested for association between four linkage disequilibrium (LD)-tagging SNPs (rs2243123, rs2243151, rs668998, and rs17826053) in IL12A and asthma and allergy-related (serum total and allergen-specific IgE, and skin test reactivity [STR] to two common allergens) phenotypes in two samples: 417 Costa Rican children with asthma and their parents, and 470 families of 503 white children in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP). The analysis was conducted using the family-based association test (FBAT) statistic implemented in the PBAT program.
Among Costa Rican children with asthma, homozygosity for the minor allele of each of two SNPs in IL12A (rs2243123 and rs2243151) was associated with increased risks of STR to American cockroach (P ≤ 0.03 for both SNPs), STR to German cockroach (P ≤ 0.01 for both SNPs), and having a positive IgE to German cockroach (P < 0.05 for both SNPs). Among children in CAMP, homozygosity for the minor allele of SNP rs2243151 in IL12A was inversely associated with STR to German cockroach (P = 0.03) and homozygosity for the minor allele of SNP rs17826053 in IL12A was associated with increased risks of STR to American cockroach (P = 0.01) and STR to German cockroach (P = 0.007). There was no significant association between any SNP in IL12A and asthma, STR to dust mite, or total IgE in Costa Rica or CAMP.
Our findings suggest that variants in IL12A influence cockroach allergy among children with asthma.
PMCID: PMC2525650  PMID: 18671862
20.  Asthma in Hispanics 
Hispanic individuals trace their ancestry to countries that were previously under Spanish rule, including Mexico, large parts of Central and South America, and some Caribbean islands. Most—but not all—Hispanics have variable proportions of European, Amerindian, and African ancestry. Hispanics are diverse with regard to many factors, including racial ancestry, country of origin, area of residence, socioeconomic status, education, and access to health care. Recent findings suggest that there is marked variation in the prevalence, morbidity, and mortality of asthma in Hispanics in the United States and in Hispanic America. The reasons for differences in asthma and asthma morbidity among and within Hispanic subgroups are poorly understood but are likely due to the interaction between yet-unidentified genetic variants and other factors, including environmental tobacco smoke exposure, obesity, allergen exposure, and availability of health care. Barriers to optimal management of asthma in Hispanics in the United States and in Hispanic America include inadequate access to health care, suboptimal use of antiinflammatory medications, and lack of reference values for spirometric measures of lung function in many subgroups (e.g., Puerto Ricans). Future studies of asthma in Hispanics should include large samples of subgroups that are well characterized with regard to self-reported ethnicity, country of origin, place of birth, area of residence, and indicators of socioeconomic status. Because Hispanics are disproportionately represented among the poor in the United States, implementation of adequate access to health care and social reforms (e.g., improving housing conditions) would likely have a major impact on reducing asthma morbidity in this population.
PMCID: PMC2662985  PMID: 16210666
asthma; genetics; Hispanics; risk factors
21.  Metabolomic Derangements Are Associated with Mortality in Critically Ill Adult Patients 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87538.
To identify metabolomic biomarkers predictive of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) mortality in adults.
Comprehensive metabolomic profiling of plasma at ICU admission to identify biomarkers associated with mortality has recently become feasible.
We performed metabolomic profiling of plasma from 90 ICU subjects enrolled in the BWH Registry of Critical Illness (RoCI). We tested individual metabolites and a Bayesian Network of metabolites for association with 28-day mortality, using logistic regression in R, and the CGBayesNets Package in MATLAB. Both individual metabolites and the network were tested for replication in an independent cohort of 149 adults enrolled in the Community Acquired Pneumonia and Sepsis Outcome Diagnostics (CAPSOD) study.
We tested variable metabolites for association with 28-day mortality. In RoCI, nearly one third of metabolites differed among ICU survivors versus those who died by day 28 (N = 57 metabolites, p<.05). Associations with 28-day mortality replicated for 31 of these metabolites (with p<.05) in the CAPSOD population. Replicating metabolites included lipids (N = 14), amino acids or amino acid breakdown products (N = 12), carbohydrates (N = 1), nucleotides (N = 3), and 1 peptide. Among 31 replicated metabolites, 25 were higher in subjects who progressed to die; all 6 metabolites that are lower in those who die are lipids. We used Bayesian modeling to form a metabolomic network of 7 metabolites associated with death (gamma-glutamylphenylalanine, gamma-glutamyltyrosine, 1-arachidonoylGPC(20:4), taurochenodeoxycholate, 3-(4-hydroxyphenyl) lactate, sucrose, kynurenine). This network achieved a 91% AUC predicting 28-day mortality in RoCI, and 74% of the AUC in CAPSOD (p<.001 in both populations).
Both individual metabolites and a metabolomic network were associated with 28-day mortality in two independent cohorts. Metabolomic profiling represents a valuable new approach for identifying novel biomarkers in critically ill patients.
PMCID: PMC3907548  PMID: 24498130
22.  Circulating Mitochondrial DNA in Patients in the ICU as a Marker of Mortality: Derivation and Validation 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(12):e1001577.
In this paper, Choi and colleagues analyzed levels of mitochondrial DNA in two prospective observational cohort studies and found that increased mtDNA levels are associated with ICU mortality, and improve risk prediction in medical ICU patients. The data suggests that mtDNA could serve as a viable plasma biomarker in MICU patients.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is a critical activator of inflammation and the innate immune system. However, mtDNA level has not been tested for its role as a biomarker in the intensive care unit (ICU). We hypothesized that circulating cell-free mtDNA levels would be associated with mortality and improve risk prediction in ICU patients.
Methods and Findings
Analyses of mtDNA levels were performed on blood samples obtained from two prospective observational cohort studies of ICU patients (the Brigham and Women's Hospital Registry of Critical Illness [BWH RoCI, n = 200] and Molecular Epidemiology of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome [ME ARDS, n = 243]). mtDNA levels in plasma were assessed by measuring the copy number of the NADH dehydrogenase 1 gene using quantitative real-time PCR. Medical ICU patients with an elevated mtDNA level (≥3,200 copies/µl plasma) had increased odds of dying within 28 d of ICU admission in both the BWH RoCI (odds ratio [OR] 7.5, 95% CI 3.6–15.8, p = 1×10−7) and ME ARDS (OR 8.4, 95% CI 2.9–24.2, p = 9×10−5) cohorts, while no evidence for association was noted in non-medical ICU patients. The addition of an elevated mtDNA level improved the net reclassification index (NRI) of 28-d mortality among medical ICU patients when added to clinical models in both the BWH RoCI (NRI 79%, standard error 14%, p<1×10−4) and ME ARDS (NRI 55%, standard error 20%, p = 0.007) cohorts. In the BWH RoCI cohort, those with an elevated mtDNA level had an increased risk of death, even in analyses limited to patients with sepsis or acute respiratory distress syndrome. Study limitations include the lack of data elucidating the concise pathological roles of mtDNA in the patients, and the limited numbers of measurements for some of biomarkers.
Increased mtDNA levels are associated with ICU mortality, and inclusion of mtDNA level improves risk prediction in medical ICU patients. Our data suggest that mtDNA could serve as a viable plasma biomarker in medical ICU patients.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Intensive care units (ICUs, also known as critical care units) are specialist hospital wards that provide care for people with life-threatening injuries and illnesses. In the US alone, more than 5 million people are admitted to ICUs every year. Different types of ICUs treat different types of problems. Medical ICUs treat patients who, for example, have been poisoned or who have a serious infection such as sepsis (blood poisoning) or severe pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs); trauma ICUs treat patients who have sustained a major injury; cardiac ICUs treat patients who have heart problems; and surgical ICUs treat complications arising from operations. Patients admitted to ICUs require constant medical attention and support from a team of specially trained nurses and physicians to prevent organ injury and to keep their bodies functioning. Monitors, intravenous tubes (to supply essential fluids, nutrients, and drugs), breathing machines, catheters (to drain urine), and other equipment also help to keep ICU patients alive.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although many patients admitted to ICUs recover, others do not. ICU specialists use scoring systems (algorithms) based on clinical signs and physiological measurements to predict their patients' likely outcomes. For example, the APACHE II scoring system uses information on heart and breathing rates, temperature, levels of salts in the blood, and other signs and physiological measurements collected during the first 24 hours in the ICU to predict the patient's risk of death. Existing scoring systems are not perfect, however, and “biomarkers” (molecules in bodily fluids that provide information about a disease state) are needed to improve risk prediction for ICU patients. Here, the researchers investigate whether levels of circulating cell-free mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) are associated with ICU deaths and whether these levels can be used as a biomarker to improve risk prediction in ICU patients. Mitochondria are cellular structures that produce energy. Levels of mtDNA in the plasma (the liquid part of blood) increase in response to trauma and infection. Moreover, mtDNA activates molecular processes that lead to inflammation and organ injury.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers measured mtDNA levels in the plasma of patients enrolled in two prospective observational cohort studies that monitored the outcomes of ICU patients. In the Brigham and Women's Hospital Registry of Critical Illness study, blood was taken from 200 patients within 24 hours of admission into the hospital's medical ICU. In the Molecular Epidemiology of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome study (acute respiratory distress syndrome is a life-threatening inflammatory reaction to lung damage or infection), blood was taken from 243 patients within 48 hours of admission into medical and non-medical ICUs at two other US hospitals. Patients admitted to medical ICUs with a raised mtDNA level (3,200 or more copies of a specific mitochondrial gene per microliter of plasma) had a 7- to 8-fold increased risk of dying within 28 days of admission compared to patients with mtDNA levels of less than 3,200 copies/µl plasma. There was no evidence of an association between raised mtDNA levels and death among patients admitted to non-medical ICUs. The addition of an elevated mtDNA level to a clinical model for risk prediction that included the APACHE II score and biomarkers that are already used to predict ICU outcomes improved the net reclassification index (an indicator of the improvement in risk prediction algorithms offered by new biomarkers) of 28-day mortality among medical ICU patients in both studies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that raised mtDNA plasma levels are associated with death in medical ICUs and show that, among patients in medical ICUs, measurement of mtDNA plasma levels can improve the prediction of the risk of death from the APACHE II scoring system, even when commonly measured biomarkers are taken into account. These findings do not indicate whether circulating cell-free mtDNA increased because of the underlying severity of illness or whether mtDNA actively contributes to the disease process in medical ICU patients. Moreover, they do not provide any evidence that raised mtDNA levels are associated with an increased risk of death among non-medical (mainly surgical) ICU patients. These findings need to be confirmed in additional patients, but given the relative ease and rapidity of mtDNA measurement, the determination of circulating cell-free mtDNA levels could be a valuable addition to the assessment of patients admitted to medical ICUs.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about intensive care
The Society of Critical Care Medicine provides information for professionals, families, and patients about all aspects of intensive care
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about intensive care (in English and Spanish)
The UK charity ICUsteps supports patients and their families through recovery from critical illness; its booklet Intensive Care: A Guide for Patients and Families is available in English and ten other languages; its website includes patient experiences and relative experiences of treatment in ICUs
Wikipedia has a page on ICU scoring systems (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC3876981  PMID: 24391478
23.  Interstitial Lung Abnormalities and Reduced Exercise Capacity 
Rationale: The relationship between interstitial lung abnormalities (ILA) and exercise capacity has not been comprehensively evaluated.
Objectives: To assess the validity of the 6-minute walk test in subjects with ILA, and to examine the association between ILA and 6-minute walk distance (6MWD).
Methods: Spearman correlation coefficients were used to assess the strength of the relationships between 6MWD and relevant measures of dyspnea, health-related quality of life, and pulmonary function in a cohort of 2,416 people who smoke from the COPDGene study. Unadjusted and adjusted linear and logistic regression models were used to assess the strength of the association between ILA and 6MWD.
Measurements and Main Results: In all subjects, and in those with ILA, 6MWD in COPDGene was associated with relevant clinical and physiologic measures. The mean 6MWD in COPDGene subjects with ILA was 386 m (SD, 128 m), and 82% and 19% of subjects with ILA had 6MWDs less than or equal to 500 and 250 m, respectively. ILA was associated with a reduced 6MWD in univariate (−30 m; 95% confidence interval, −50 to −10; P = 0.004) and multivariate models (−19 m; 95% confidence interval, −33 to −5; P = 0.008). Compared with subjects without ILA, subjects with ILA had an 80% and 77% increase in their odds to have a walk distance limited to less than or equal to 500 and 250 m, respectively. Although these findings were dependent on ILA subtype, they were not limited to those with COPD.
Conclusions: Our study demonstrates that ILA is associated with measurable decrements in the 6MWD of people who smoke.
Clinical trial registered with (NCT 00608764).
PMCID: PMC3326424  PMID: 22268134
six-minute walk distance; emphysema; interstitial lung disease; subclinical; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
24.  Statins and Pulmonary Fibrosis 
Rationale: The role of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins) in the development or progression of interstitial lung disease (ILD) is controversial.
Objectives: To evaluate the association between statin use and ILD.
Methods: We used regression analyses to evaluate the association between statin use and interstitial lung abnormalities (ILA) in a large cohort of smokers from COPDGene. Next, we evaluated the effect of statin pretreatment on bleomycin-induced fibrosis in mice and explored the mechanism behind these observations in vitro.
Measurements and Main Results: In COPDGene, 38% of subjects with ILA were taking statins compared with 27% of subjects without ILA. Statin use was positively associated in ILA (odds ratio, 1.60; 95% confidence interval, 1.03–2.50; P = 0.04) after adjustment for covariates including a history of high cholesterol or coronary artery disease. This association was modified by the hydrophilicity of statin and the age of the subject. Next, we demonstrate that statin administration aggravates lung injury and fibrosis in bleomycin-treated mice. Statin pretreatment enhances caspase-1–mediated immune responses in vivo and in vitro; the latter responses were abolished in bone marrow–derived macrophages isolated from Nlrp3−/− and Casp1−/− mice. Finally, we provide further insights by demonstrating that statins enhance NLRP3-inflammasome activation by increasing mitochondrial reactive oxygen species generation in macrophages.
Conclusions: Statin use is associated with ILA among smokers in the COPDGene study and enhances bleomycin-induced lung inflammation and fibrosis in the mouse through a mechanism involving enhanced NLRP3-inflammasome activation. Our findings suggest that statins may influence the susceptibility to, or progression of, ILD.
Clinical trial registered with (NCT 00608764).
PMCID: PMC3297101  PMID: 22246178
statins; interstitial lung disease; pulmonary fibrosis; inflammasome; mitochondrial reactive oxygen species
25.  Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) is associated with allergic rhinitis in children with asthma 
Allergic rhinitis (AR) affects up to 80% of children with asthma and increases asthma severity. Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) is a key mediator of allergic inflammation. The role of the TSLP gene (TSLP) in the pathogenesis of AR has not been studied.
To test for associations between variants in TSLP, TSLP-related genes, and AR in children with asthma.
We genotyped 15 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in TSLP, OX40L, IL7R, and RXRα in three independent cohorts: 592 asthmatic Costa Rican children and their parents, 422 nuclear families of North American children with asthma, and 239 Swedish children with asthma. We tested for associations between these SNPs and AR. As we previously reported sex-specific effects for TSLP, we performed overall and sex-stratified analyses. We additionally performed secondary analyses for gene-by-gene interactions.
Across the three cohorts, the T allele of TSLP SNP rs1837253 was undertransmitted in boys with AR and asthma as compared to boys with asthma alone. The SNP was associated with reduced odds for AR (odds ratios ranging from 0.56 to 0.63, with corresponding Fisher's combined P value of 1.2 × 10-4). Our findings were significant after accounting for multiple comparisons. SNPs in OX40L, IL7R, and RXRα were not consistently associated with AR in children with asthma. There were nominally significant interactions between gene pairs.
TSLP SNP rs1837253 is associated with reduced odds for AR in boys with asthma. Our findings support a role for TSLP in the pathogenesis of AR in children with asthma.
PMCID: PMC3032752  PMID: 21244681

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