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1.  GSTP1 and TNF Gene Variants and Associations between Air Pollution and Incident Childhood Asthma: The Traffic, Asthma and Genetics (TAG) Study 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2014;122(4):418-424.
Background: Genetics may partially explain observed heterogeneity in associations between traffic-related air pollution and incident asthma.
Objective: Our aim was to investigate the impact of gene variants associated with oxidative stress and inflammation on associations between air pollution and incident childhood asthma.
Methods: Traffic-related air pollution, asthma, wheeze, gene variant, and potential confounder data were pooled across six birth cohorts. Parents reported physician-diagnosed asthma and wheeze from birth to 7–8 years of age (confirmed by pediatric allergist in two cohorts). Individual estimates of annual average air pollution [nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulate matter ≤ 2.5 μm (PM2.5), PM2.5 absorbance, ozone] were assigned to each child’s birth address using land use regression, atmospheric modeling, and ambient monitoring data. Effect modification by variants in GSTP1 (rs1138272/Ala114Val and rs1695/IIe105Val) and TNF (rs1800629/G-308A) was investigated.
Results: Data on asthma, wheeze, potential confounders, at least one SNP of interest, and NO2 were available for 5,115 children. GSTP1 rs1138272 and TNF rs1800629 SNPs were associated with asthma and wheeze, respectively. In relation to air pollution exposure, children with one or more GSTP1 rs1138272 minor allele were at increased risk of current asthma [odds ratio (OR) = 2.59; 95% CI: 1.43, 4.68 per 10 μg/m3 NO2] and ever asthma (OR = 1.64; 95% CI: 1.06, 2.53) compared with homozygous major allele carriers (OR = 0.95; 95% CI: 0.68, 1.32 for current and OR = 1.20; 95% CI: 0.98, 1.48 for ever asthma; Bonferroni-corrected interaction p = 0.04 and 0.01, respectively). Similarly, for GSTP1 rs1695, associations between NO2 and current and ever asthma had ORs of 1.43 (95% CI: 1.03, 1.98) and 1.36 (95% CI: 1.08, 1.70), respectively, for minor allele carriers compared with ORs of 0.82 (95% CI: 0.52, 1.32) and 1.12 (95% CI: 0.84, 1.49) for homozygous major allele carriers (Bonferroni-corrected interaction p-values 0.48 and 0.09). There were no clear differences by TNF genotype.
Conclusions: Children carrying GSTP1 rs1138272 or rs1695 minor alleles may constitute a susceptible population at increased risk of asthma associated with air pollution.
Citation: MacIntyre EA, Brauer M, Melén E, Bauer CP, Bauer M, Berdel D, Bergström A, Brunekreef B, Chan-Yeung M, Klümper C, Fuertes E, Gehring U, Gref A, Heinrich J, Herbarth O, Kerkhof M, Koppelman GH, Kozyrskyj AL, Pershagen G, Postma DS, Thiering E, Tiesler CM, Carlsten C, TAG Study Group. 2014. GSTP1 and TNF gene variants and associations between air pollution and incident childhood asthma: the traffic, asthma and genetics (TAG) Study. Environ Health Perspect 122:418–424;
PMCID: PMC3984232  PMID: 24465030
2.  Lower Corticosteroid Skin Blanching Response Is Associated with Severe COPD 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91788.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by chronic airflow limitation caused by ongoing inflammatory and remodeling processes of the airways and lung tissue. Inflammation can be targeted by corticosteroids. However, airway inflammation is generally less responsive to steroids in COPD than in asthma. The underlying mechanisms are yet unclear. This study aimed to assess whether skin corticosteroid insensitivity is associated with COPD and COPD severity using the corticosteroid skin blanching test.
COPD patients GOLD stage I–IV (n = 27, 24, 22, and 16 respectively) and healthy never-smokers and smokers (n = 28 and 56 respectively) were included. Corticosteroid sensitivity was assessed by the corticosteroid skin blanching test. Budesonide was applied in 8 logarithmically increasing concentrations (0–100 μg/ml) on subject's forearm. Assessment of blanching was performed after 7 hours using a 7-point scale (normal skin to intense blanching). All subjects performed spirometry and body plethysmography.
Both GOLD III and GOLD IV COPD patients showed significantly lower skin blanching responses than healthy never-smokers and smokers, GOLD I, and GOLD II patients. Their area under the dose-response curve values of the skin blanching response were 586 and 243 vs. 1560, 1154, 1380, and 1309 respectively, p<0.05. Lower FEV1 levels and higher RV/TLC ratios were significantly associated with lower skin blanching responses (p = 0.001 and p = 0.004 respectively). GOLD stage I, II, III and IV patients had similar age and packyears.
In this study, severe and very severe COPD patients had lower skin corticosteroid sensitivity than mild and moderate COPD patients and non-COPD controls with comparable age and packyears. Our findings together suggest that the reduced skin blanching response fits with a subgroup of COPD patients that has an early-onset COPD phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3951419  PMID: 24622644
4.  Steroid Resistance in COPD? Overlap and Differential Anti-Inflammatory Effects in Smokers and Ex-Smokers 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87443.
Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) reduce exacerbation rates and improve health status but can increase the risk of pneumonia in COPD. The GLUCOLD study, investigating patients with mild-to-moderate COPD, has shown that long-term (2.5-year) ICS therapy induces anti-inflammatory effects. The literature suggests that cigarette smoking causes ICS insensitivity. The aim of this study is to compare anti-inflammatory effects of ICS in persistent smokers and persistent ex-smokers in a post-hoc analysis of the GLUCOLD study.
Persistent smokers (n = 41) and persistent ex-smokers (n = 31) from the GLUCOLD cohort were investigated. Effects of ICS treatment compared with placebo were estimated by analysing changes in lung function, hyperresponsiveness, and inflammatory cells in sputum and bronchial biopsies during short-term (0–6 months) and long-term (6–30 months) treatment using multiple regression analyses.
Bronchial mast cells were reduced by short-term and long-term ICS treatment in both smokers and ex-smokers. In contrast, CD3+, CD4+, and CD8+ cells were reduced by short-term ICS treatment in smokers only. In addition, sputum neutrophils and lymphocytes, and bronchial CD8+ cells were reduced after long-term treatment in ex-smokers only. No significant interactions existed between smoking and ICS treatment.
Even in the presence of smoking, long-term ICS treatment may lead to anti-inflammatory effects in the lung. Some anti-inflammatory ICS effects are comparable in smokers and ex-smokers with COPD, other effects are cell-specific. The clinical relevance of these findings, however, are uncertain.
PMCID: PMC3914834  PMID: 24505290
5.  Genome-wide protein QTL mapping identifies human plasma kallikrein as a post-translational regulator of serum uPAR levels 
The FASEB Journal  2014;28(2):923-934.
The soluble cleaved urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (scuPAR) is a circulating protein detected in multiple diseases, including various cancers, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease, where elevated levels of scuPAR have been associated with worsening prognosis and increased disease aggressiveness. We aimed to identify novel genetic and biomolecular mechanisms regulating scuPAR levels. Elevated serum scuPAR levels were identified in asthma (n=514) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD; n=219) cohorts when compared to controls (n=96). In these cohorts, a genome-wide association study of serum scuPAR levels identified a human plasma kallikrein gene (KLKB1) promoter polymorphism (rs4253238) associated with serum scuPAR levels in a control/asthma population (P=1.17×10−7), which was also observed in a COPD population (combined P=5.04×10−12). Using a fluorescent assay, we demonstrated that serum KLKB1 enzymatic activity was driven by rs4253238 and is inverse to scuPAR levels. Biochemical analysis identified that KLKB1 cleaves scuPAR and negates scuPAR's effects on primary human bronchial epithelial cells (HBECs) in vitro. Chymotrypsin was used as a proproteolytic control, while basal HBECs were used as a control to define scuPAR-driven effects. In summary, we reveal a novel post-translational regulatory mechanism for scuPAR using a hypothesis-free approach with implications for multiple human diseases.—Portelli, M. A., Siedlinski, M., Stewart, C. E., Postma, D. S., Nieuwenhuis, M. A., Vonk, J. M., Nurnberg, P., Altmuller, J., Moffatt, M. F., Wardlaw, A. J., Parker, S. G., Connolly, M. J., Koppelman, G. H., Sayers, I. Genome-wide protein QTL mapping identifies human plasma kallikrein as a post-translational regulator of serum uPAR levels.
PMCID: PMC3898658  PMID: 24249636
GWAS; proteolysis; respiratory disease; HBECs; cellular proliferation and wound repair
6.  Genome-wide study identifies two loci associated with lung function decline in mild to moderate COPD 
Human genetics  2012;132(1):79-90.
Accelerated lung function decline is a key COPD phenotype; however its genetic control remains largely unknown.
We performed a genome-wide association study using the Illumina Human660W-Quad v.1_A BeadChip. Generalized estimation equations were used to assess genetic contributions to lung function decline over a 5-year period in 4,048 European-American Lung Health Study participants with largely mild COPD. Genotype imputation was performed using reference HapMap II data. To validate regions meeting genome-wide significance, replication of top SNPs was attempted in independent cohorts. Three genes (TMEM26, ANK3 and FOXA1) within the regions of interest were selected for tissue expression studies using immunohistochemistry.
Measurements and Main Results
Two intergenic SNPs (rs10761570, rs7911302) on chromosome 10 and one SNP on chromosome 14 (rs177852) met genome-wide significance after Bonferroni. Further support for the chromosome 10 region was obtained by imputation, the most significantly associated imputed SNPs (rs10761571, rs7896712) being flanked by observed markers rs10761570 and rs7911302. Results were not replicated in four general population cohorts or a smaller cohort of subjects with moderate to severe COPD; however, we show novel expression of genes near regions of significantly associated SNPS, including TMEM26 and FOXA1 in airway epithelium and lung parenchyma, and ANK3 in alveolar macrophages. Levels of expression were associated with lung function and COPD status.
We identified two novel regions associated with lung function decline in mild COPD. Genes within these regions were expressed in relevant lung cells and their expression related to airflow limitation suggesting they may represent novel candidate genes for COPD susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3536920  PMID: 22986903
COPD; lung function decline; GWAS; genome wide association; genes; polymorphisms
7.  miR-638 regulates gene expression networks associated with emphysematous lung destruction 
Genome Medicine  2013;5(12):114.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a heterogeneous disease characterized by varying degrees of emphysematous lung destruction and small airway disease, each with distinct effects on clinical outcomes. There is little known about how microRNAs contribute specifically to the emphysema phenotype. We examined how genome-wide microRNA expression is altered with regional emphysema severity and how these microRNAs regulate disease-associated gene expression networks.
We profiled microRNAs in different regions of the lung with varying degrees of emphysema from 6 smokers with COPD and 2 controls (8 regions × 8 lungs = 64 samples). Regional emphysema severity was quantified by mean linear intercept. Whole genome microRNA and gene expression data were integrated in the same samples to build co-expression networks. Candidate microRNAs were perturbed in human lung fibroblasts in order to validate these networks.
The expression levels of 63 microRNAs (P < 0.05) were altered with regional emphysema. A subset, including miR-638, miR-30c, and miR-181d, had expression levels that were associated with those of their predicted mRNA targets. Genes correlated with these microRNAs were enriched in pathways associated with emphysema pathophysiology (for example, oxidative stress and accelerated aging). Inhibition of miR-638 expression in lung fibroblasts led to modulation of these same emphysema-related pathways. Gene targets of miR-638 in these pathways were amongst those negatively correlated with miR-638 expression in emphysema.
Our findings demonstrate that microRNAs are altered with regional emphysema severity and modulate disease-associated gene expression networks. Furthermore, miR-638 may regulate gene expression pathways related to the oxidative stress response and aging in emphysematous lung tissue and lung fibroblasts.
PMCID: PMC3971345  PMID: 24380442
8.  Early life microbial exposure and fractional exhaled nitric oxide in school-age children: a prospective birth cohort study 
Environmental Health  2013;12:103.
Inflammation is a key factor in the pathogenesis of respiratory diseases. Early life exposure to microbial agents may have an effect on the development of the immune system and on respiratory health later in life.
In the present work we aimed to evaluate the associations between early life microbial exposures, and fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) at school age.
Endotoxin, extracellular polysaccharides (EPS) and β(1,3)-D-glucan were measured in living room dust collected at 2–3 months of age in homes of participants of three prospective European birth cohorts (LISA, n = 182; PIAMA, n = 244; and INMA, n = 355). Home dampness and pet ownership were periodically reported by the parents through questionnaires. FeNO was measured at age 8 for PIAMA and at age 10/11 for LISA and INMA. Cohort-specific associations between the indoor microbial exposures and FeNO were evaluated using multivariable regression analyses. Estimates were combined using random-effects meta-analyses.
FeNO at school age was lower in children exposed to endotoxin at age 2–3 months (β -0.05, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.10;-0.01) and in children with reported dog ownership during the first two years of life (GM ratio 0.82, CI 0.70-0.96). FeNO was not significantly associated with early life exposure to EPS, β(1,3)-D-glucan, indoor dampness and cat ownership.
Early life exposure to bacterial endotoxin and early life dog ownership are associated with lower FeNO at school age. Further studies are needed to confirm our results and to unravel the underlying mechanisms and possible clinical relevance of this finding.
PMCID: PMC3883521  PMID: 24295277
Fractional exhaled nitric oxide; Endotoxin; Extracellular polysaccharides; β(1,3)-D-glucan; Pets; Dampness; Indoor; Children; Cohort study
9.  Inflammation and corticosteroid responsiveness in ex-, current- and never-smoking asthmatics 
It has been suggested that smoking asthmatics benefit less from corticosteroid treatment than never-smoking asthmatics. We investigated differences in blood and sputum inflammatory profiles between ex-, current-, and never-smokers and assessed their ICS treatment response after 2-week and 1-year treatment.
We analyzed FEV1, PC20 methacholine and PC20 AMP, (differential) cell counts in sputum and blood in ex-, current- and never-smokers at baseline (n=114), after 2-week treatment with fluticasone 500 or 2000 μg/day (n=76) and after 1-year treatment with fluticasone 500 μg/day or a variable dose of fluticasone based on a self-management plan (n=64).
A total of 114 patients were included (29 ex-, 30 current- and 55 never-smokers. At baseline, ex- and current-smokers had less eosinophils in sputum and blood than never-smokers. Blood neutrophil counts were higher in current- than in never-smokers. A higher number of cigarettes smoked daily was associated with lower blood and sputum eosinophils. After 2-week ICS treatment, FEV1 %predicted improved less in current-smokers than never-smokers (2.4% versus 8.1%, p=0.010) and ex-smokers tended to improve less than never-smokers (4.1%, p=0.067). In contrast, no differences in ICS treatment response in lung function or inflammatory cells were found between the three groups after 1 year.
Ex- and current-smokers have less eosinophils and more neutrophils in their sputum and blood than never-smokers. Although ex- and current-smokers have a reduced short-term corticosteroid treatment response, we did not find a difference in their long-term treatment response.
PMCID: PMC3849864  PMID: 24053453
Asthma; Smoking; Corticosteroid responsiveness; Lung function
10.  GSTCD and INTS12 Regulation and Expression in the Human Lung 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74630.
Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) meta-analyses have identified a strong association signal for lung function, which maps to a region on 4q24 containing two oppositely transcribed genes: glutathione S-transferase, C-terminal domain containing (GSTCD) and integrator complex subunit 12 (INTS12). Both genes were found to be expressed in a range of human airway cell types. The promoter regions and transcription start sites were determined in mRNA from human lung and a novel splice variant was identified for each gene. We obtained the following evidence for GSTCD and INTS12 co-regulation and expression: (i) correlated mRNA expression was observed both via Q-PCR and in a lung expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) study, (ii) induction of both GSTCD and INTS12 mRNA expression in human airway smooth muscle cells was seen in response to TGFβ1, (iii) a lung eQTL study revealed that both GSTCD and INTS12 mRNA levels positively correlate with percent predicted FEV1, and (iv) FEV1 GWAS associated SNPs in 4q24 were found to act as an eQTL for INTS12 in a number of tissues. In fixed sections of human lung tissue, GSTCD protein expression was ubiquitous, whereas INTS12 expression was predominantly in epithelial cells and pneumocytes. During human fetal lung development, GSTCD protein expression was observed to be highest at the earlier pseudoglandular stage (10-12 weeks) compared with the later canalicular stage (17-19 weeks), whereas INTS12 expression levels did not alter throughout these stages. Knowledge of the transcriptional and translational regulation and expression of GSTCD and INTS12 provides important insights into the potential role of these genes in determining lung function. Future work is warranted to fully define the functions of INTS12 and GSTCD.
PMCID: PMC3776747  PMID: 24058608
11.  Genetics of Asthma Susceptibility and Severity 
Clinics in chest medicine  2012;33(3):431-443.
The interaction of genes and environmental exposures influences the development of asthma and determines asthma severity. This review focuses on recent developments in genetic studies of asthma onset and progression. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are currently the most effective approach to study genetics of complex diseases. There have been two large meta-analyses of asthma susceptibility, GABRIEL and EVE, which identified the same four chromosomal regions, many of which had also been identified in previous GWAS: loci in the ORMDL3 region of 17q21, IL1RL/IL18R genes on chromosome 2q, the TSLP gene region on 5q22, and IL33 on chromosome 9p24. These regions were associated with asthma in individuals of different ethnic backgrounds. EVE also identified a novel asthma susceptibility locus, PYHIN1, in individuals of African descent. Genome-wide screens for asthma susceptibility in Asian adults and children both identified genetic variants in the major histocompatiblity complex gene region (HLA region) on chromosome 6p21 as highly associated with asthma risk. This locus was one of the first candidate genes identified for asthma and has been a significant predictor of asthma risk in several GWAS.
There is also a need to understand asthma disease heterogeneity as different phenotypes may reflect several pathogenic pathways. Genes that are associated with phenotypes including lung function, biomarker levels and asthma therapeutic responses provide insight into mechanisms of asthma severity progression. For example, the HHIP gene is a significant predictor of pulmonary function changes in asthma and in the normal population. A joint model of risk variants in lung function genes were highly associated with lower FEV1 and increased asthma severity criteria. In addition, a genome-wide screen to discover pharmacogenetic associations related to response to inhaled glucocorticoids identified two correlated SNPs in the GLCCI1 gene that confer a significant lung function response to this asthma therapy.
Future genetic studies for asthma susceptibility and severity will incorporate exome or whole-genome sequencing to identify common and rare genetic variants. Using these variants identified in comprehensively phenotyped asthmatics will lead to the development of personalized therapy in individuals with asthma.
PMCID: PMC3431509  PMID: 22929093
Asthma; genetics; susceptibility; severity; personalized medicine; therapy; lung function
12.  ITGB5 and AGFG1 variants are associated with severity of airway responsiveness 
BMC Medical Genetics  2013;14:86.
Airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), a primary characteristic of asthma, involves increased airway smooth muscle contractility in response to certain exposures. We sought to determine whether common genetic variants were associated with AHR severity.
A genome-wide association study (GWAS) of AHR, quantified as the natural log of the dosage of methacholine causing a 20% drop in FEV1, was performed with 994 non-Hispanic white asthmatic subjects from three drug clinical trials: CAMP, CARE, and ACRN. Genotyping was performed on Affymetrix 6.0 arrays, and imputed data based on HapMap Phase 2, was used to measure the association of SNPs with AHR using a linear regression model. Replication of primary findings was attempted in 650 white subjects from DAG, and 3,354 white subjects from LHS. Evidence that the top SNPs were eQTL of their respective genes was sought using expression data available for 419 white CAMP subjects.
The top primary GWAS associations were in rs848788 (P-value 7.2E-07) and rs6731443 (P-value 2.5E-06), located within the ITGB5 and AGFG1 genes, respectively. The AGFG1 result replicated at a nominally significant level in one independent population (LHS P-value 0.012), and the SNP had a nominally significant unadjusted P-value (0.0067) for being an eQTL of AGFG1.
Based on current knowledge of ITGB5 and AGFG1, our results suggest that variants within these genes may be involved in modulating AHR. Future functional studies are required to confirm that our associations represent true biologically significant findings.
PMCID: PMC3765944  PMID: 23984888
Asthma; Airway hyperresponsiveness; Genome-wide association study; ITGB5; AGFG1
13.  GST-omega genes interact with environmental tobacco smoke on adult level of lung function 
Respiratory Research  2013;14(1):83.
Lung growth in utero and lung function loss during adulthood can be affected by exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). The underlying mechanisms have not been fully elucidated. Both ETS exposure and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in Glutathione S-Transferase (GST) Omega genes have been associated with the level of lung function. This study aimed to assess if GSTO SNPs interact with ETS exposure in utero and during adulthood on the level of lung function during adulthood.
We used cross-sectional data of 8,128 genotyped participants from the LifeLines cohort study. Linear regression models (adjusted for age, sex, height, weight, current smoking, ex-smoking and packyears smoked) were used to analyze the associations between in utero, daily and workplace ETS exposure, GSTO SNPs, the interaction between ETS and GSTOs, and level of lung function (FEV1, FEV1/FVC). Since the interactions between ETS and GSTOs may be modified by active tobacco smoking we additionally assessed associations in never and ever smokers separately. A second sample of 5,308 genotyped LifeLines participants was used to verify our initial findings.
Daily and workplace ETS exposure was associated with significantly lower FEV1 levels. GSTO SNPs (recessive model) interacted with in utero ETS and were associated with higher levels of FEV1, whereas the interactions with daily and workplace ETS exposure were associated with lower levels of FEV1, effects being more pronounced in never smokers. The interaction of GSTO2 SNP rs156697 with in utero ETS associated with a higher level of FEV1 was significantly replicated in the second sample. Overall, the directions of the interactions of in utero and workplace ETS exposure with the SNPs found in the second (verification) sample were in line with the first sample.
GSTO genotypes interact with in utero and adulthood ETS exposure on adult lung function level, but in opposite directions.
PMCID: PMC3751364  PMID: 23937118
Genes; Environmental tobacco smoke; Lung function
14.  Refining Susceptibility Loci of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease with Lung eqtls 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70220.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the fourth leading cause of mortality worldwide. Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified robust susceptibility loci associated with COPD. However, the mechanisms mediating the risk conferred by these loci remain to be found. The goal of this study was to identify causal genes/variants within susceptibility loci associated with COPD. In the discovery cohort, genome-wide gene expression profiles of 500 non-tumor lung specimens were obtained from patients undergoing lung surgery. Blood-DNA from the same patients were genotyped for 1,2 million SNPs. Following genotyping and gene expression quality control filters, 409 samples were analyzed. Lung expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) were identified and overlaid onto three COPD susceptibility loci derived from GWAS; 4q31 (HHIP), 4q22 (FAM13A), and 19q13 (RAB4B, EGLN2, MIA, CYP2A6). Significant eQTLs were replicated in two independent datasets (n = 363 and 339). SNPs previously associated with COPD and lung function on 4q31 (rs1828591, rs13118928) were associated with the mRNA expression of HHIP. An association between mRNA expression level of FAM13A and SNP rs2045517 was detected at 4q22, but did not reach statistical significance. At 19q13, significant eQTLs were detected with EGLN2. In summary, this study supports HHIP, FAM13A, and EGLN2 as the most likely causal COPD genes on 4q31, 4q22, and 19q13, respectively. Strong lung eQTL SNPs identified in this study will need to be tested for association with COPD in case-control studies. Further functional studies will also be needed to understand the role of genes regulated by disease-related variants in COPD.
PMCID: PMC3728203  PMID: 23936167
15.  ADAM33 Gene Polymorphisms and Mortality. A Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e67768.
The ADAM33 gene is associated with the pathophysiology of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and atherosclerosis. In this study we investigated all-cause, COPD and cardiovascular mortality, in relation to single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in ADAM33 (Q_1, S_1, S_2, T_1 and T_2) that were genotyped in 1,390 subjects from the Vlagtwedde/Vlaardingen cohort. Participants were examined at entry in 1989/1990 and followed up till evaluation of the vital status on December 31st, 2008. Using Cox proportional hazards regression we estimated the risk of the SNPs in relation to mortality, adjusting for gender, age, FEV1, height, place of residence and packyears of smoking. Additionally, we performed stratified analyses according to gender and smoking habits. After 18 years, 284 (20.4%) subjects had died (107 due to cardiovascular disease and 20 due to COPD). Individuals homozygous for the minor allele of SNP T_2 had an increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality compared to wild types: hazard ratio 3.6 (95% confidence interval 2.0 to 6.7) and 3.4 (1.2 to 9.5) respectively. Individuals homozygous for the minor allele of S_1, S_2, T_2 or Q_1 had a significantly increased risk of COPD mortality. In stratified analyses the risk of all-cause mortality associated with SNP T_2 did not change: females 3.5 (1.5 to 8.3), males 3.1 (1.2 to 7.6), never smokers 3.8 (0.9 to 16.3), ever smokers 3.6 (1.8 to 7.2). This study shows for the first time that ADAM33 is a pleiotropic gene that is associated with all-cause, COPD and cardiovascular mortality, independent of potential confounders.
PMCID: PMC3701578  PMID: 23861802
16.  Inflammatory phenotypes underlying uncontrolled childhood asthma despite inhaled corticosteroid treatment: rationale and design of the PACMAN2 study 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:94.
The diagnosis of childhood asthma covers a broad spectrum of pathological mechanisms that can lead to similarly presenting clinical symptoms, but may nonetheless require different treatment approaches. Distinct underlying inflammatory patterns are thought to influence responsiveness to standard asthma medication.
The purpose of the PACMAN2 study is to identify inflammatory phenotypes that can discriminate uncontrolled childhood asthma from controlled childhood asthma by measures in peripheral blood and exhaled air. PACMAN2 is a nested, case–control follow-up study to the ongoing pharmacy-based “Pharmacogenetics of Asthma medication in Children: Medication with Anti-inflammatory effects” (PACMAN) study. The original PACMAN cohort consists of children aged 4–12 years with reported use of asthma medication. The PACMAN2 study will be conducted within the larger PACMAN cohort, and will focus on detailed phenotyping of a subset of the PACMAN children. The selected participants will be invited to a follow-up visit in a clinical setting at least six months after their baseline visit based on their adherence to usage of inhaled corticosteroids, their asthma symptoms in the past year, and their age (≥ 8 years). During the follow-up visit, current and long-term asthma symptoms, medication use, environmental factors, medication adherence and levels of exhaled nitric oxide will be reassessed. The following measures will also be examined: pulmonary function, exhaled volatile organic compounds, as well as inflammatory markers in peripheral blood and blood plasma. Comparative analysis and cluster-analyses will be used to identify markers that differentiate children with uncontrolled asthma despite their use of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) (cases) from children whose asthma is controlled by the use of ICS (controls).
Asthmatic children with distinct inflammatory phenotypes may respond differently to anti-inflammatory therapy. Therefore, by identifying inflammatory phenotypes in children with the PACMAN2 study, we may greatly impact future personalised treatment strategies, uncover new leads for therapeutic targets and improve the design of future clinical studies in the assessment of the efficacy of novel therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3691827  PMID: 23768206
Asthma; Child; Phenotypes; Inflammation; Proteomics; Volatile organic compounds; Corticosteroids
17.  Rate of progression of CT-quantified emphysema in male current and ex-smokers: a follow-up study 
Respiratory Research  2013;14(1):55.
Little is known about the factors associated with CT-quantified emphysema progression in heavy smokers. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of length of smoking cessation and clinical / demographical factors on the rate of emphysema progression and FEV1-decline in male heavy smokers.
3,670 male smokers with mean (SD) 40.8 (17.9) packyears underwent chest CT scans and pulmonary function tests at baseline and after 1 and 3 years follow-up. Smoking status (quitted ≥5, ≥1-<5, <1 years or current smoker) was noted. Rate of progression of emphysema and FEV1-decline after follow-up were assessed by analysis of variance adjusting for age, height, baseline pulmonary function and emphysema severity, packyears, years in study and respiratory symptoms. The quitted ≥5 group was used as reference.
Median (Q1-Q3) emphysema severity,<-950 HU, was 8.8 (5.1 – 14.1) and mean (SD) FEV1 was 3.4 (0.73) L or 98.5 (18.5) % of predicted. The group quitted ‘>5 years’ showed significantly lower rates of progression of emphysema compared to current smokers, 1.07% and 1.12% per year, respectively (p<0.001). Current smokers had a yearly FEV1-decline of 69 ml, while subjects quit smoking >5 years had a yearly decline of 57.5 ml (p<0.001).
Quit smoking >5 years significantly slows the rate of emphysema progression and lung function decline.
Trial registration
Registered at with trial number ISRCTN63545820.
PMCID: PMC3669040  PMID: 23688060
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); Emphysema; Smoking; Pulmonary function testing
18.  Genetic Variation in FADS Genes and Plasma Cholesterol Levels in 2-Year-Old Infants: KOALA Birth Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e61671.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes involved in fatty acid metabolism (FADS1 FADS2 gene cluster) are associated with plasma lipid levels. We aimed to investigate whether these associations are already present early in life and compare the relative contribution of FADS SNPs vs traditional (non-genetic) factors as determinants of plasma lipid levels.
Information on infants’ plasma total cholesterol levels, genotypes of five FADS SNPs (rs174545, rs174546, rs174556, rs174561, and rs3834458), anthropometric data, maternal characteristics, and breastfeeding history was available for 521 2-year-old children from the KOALA Birth Cohort Study. For 295 of these 521 children, plasma HDLc and non-HDLc levels were also known. Multivariable linear regression analysis was used to study the associations of genetic and non-genetic determinants with cholesterol levels.
All FADS SNPs were significantly associated with total cholesterol levels. Heterozygous and homozygous for the minor allele children had about 4% and 8% lower total cholesterol levels than major allele homozygotes. In addition, homozygous for the minor allele children had about 7% lower HDLc levels. This difference reached significance for the SNPs rs174546 and rs3834458. The associations went in the same direction for non-HDLc, but statistical significance was not reached. The percentage of total variance of total cholesterol levels explained by FADS SNPs was relatively low (lower than 3%) but of the same order as that explained by gender and the non-genetic determinants together.
FADS SNPs are associated with plasma total cholesterol and HDLc levels in preschool children. This brings a new piece of evidence to explain how blood lipid levels may track from childhood to adulthood. Moreover, the finding that these SNPs explain a similar amount of variance in total cholesterol levels as the non-genetic determinants studied reveals the potential importance of investigating the effects of genetic variations in early life.
PMCID: PMC3648514  PMID: 23667444
19.  Inhaled Steroids Modulate Extracellular Matrix Composition in Bronchial Biopsies of COPD Patients: A Randomized, Controlled Trial 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63430.
Smoking and inflammation contribute to the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which involves changes in extracellular matrix. This is thought to contribute to airway remodeling and airflow obstruction. We have previously observed that long-term treatment with inhaled corticosteroids can not only reduce bronchial inflammation, but can also attenuate lung function decline in moderate-severe COPD. We hypothesized that inhaled corticosteroids and current smoking modulate bronchial extracellular matrix components in COPD.
To compare major extracellular matrix components (elastic fibers; proteoglycans [versican, decorin]; collagens type I and III) in bronchial biopsies 1) after 30-months inhaled steroids treatment or placebo; and 2) between current and ex-smokers with COPD.
We included 64 moderate-severe, steroid-naive COPD patients (24/40 (ex)-smokers, 62±7 years, 46 (31–54) packyears, post-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) 62±9% predicted) at baseline in this randomized, controlled trial. 19 and 13 patients received 30-months treatment with fluticasone or placebo, respectively. Bronchial biopsies collected at baseline and after 30 months were studied using (immuno)histochemistry to evaluate extracellular matrix content. Percentage and density of stained area were calculated by digital image analysis.
30-Months inhaled steroids increased the percentage stained area of versican (9.6% [CI 0.9 to 18.3%]; p = 0.03) and collagen III (20.6% [CI 3.8 to 37.4%]; p = 0.02) compared to placebo. Increased collagen I staining density correlated with increased post-bronchodilator FEV1 after inhaled steroids treatment (Rs = 0.45, p = 0.04). There were no differences between smokers and ex-smokers with COPD in percentages and densities for all extracellular matrix proteins.
These data show that long-term inhaled corticosteroids treatment partially changes the composition of extracellular matrix in moderate-severe COPD. This is associated with increased lung function, suggesting that long-term inhaled steroids modulate airway remodeling thereby potentially preventing airway collapse in COPD. Smoking status is not associated with bronchial extracellular matrix proteins.
Trial Registration NCT00158847
PMCID: PMC3646783  PMID: 23667615
20.  Genome-wide association study of lung function decline in adults with and without asthma 
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified determinants of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and lung function level, however none addressed decline in lung function.
We conducted the first GWAS on age-related decline in forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1) and in its ratio to forced vital capacity (FVC) stratified a priori by asthma status.
Discovery cohorts included adults of European ancestry (1441 asthmatics, 2677 non-asthmatics; Epidemiological Study on the Genetics and Environment of Asthma (EGEA); Swiss Cohort Study on Air Pollution And Lung And Heart Disease In Adults (SAPALDIA); European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS)). The associations of FEV1 and FEV1/FVC decline with 2.5 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were estimated. Thirty loci were followed-up by in silico replication (1160 asthmatics, 10858 non-asthmatics: Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC); Framingham Heart Study (FHS); British 1958 Birth Cohort (B58C); Dutch asthma study).
Main signals identified differed between asthmatics and non-asthmatics. None of the SNPs reached genome-wide significance. The association between the height related gene DLEU7 and FEV1 decline suggested for non-asthmatics in the discovery phase was replicated (discovery P=4.8×10−6; replication P=0.03) and additional sensitivity analyses point to a relation to growth. The top ranking signal, TUSC3, associated with FEV1/FVC decline in asthmatics (P=5.3×10−8) did not replicate. SNPs previously associated with cross-sectional lung function were not prominently associated with decline.
Genetic heterogeneity of lung function may be extensive. Our results suggest that genetic determinants of longitudinal and cross-sectional lung function differ and vary by asthma status.
PMCID: PMC3340499  PMID: 22424883
Asthma; cohort studies; genome-wide association; lung function decline; heterogeneity
21.  Integration of Mouse and Human Genome-Wide Association Data Identifies KCNIP4 as an Asthma Gene 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56179.
Asthma is a common chronic respiratory disease characterized by airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). The genetics of asthma have been widely studied in mouse and human, and homologous genomic regions have been associated with mouse AHR and human asthma-related phenotypes. Our goal was to identify asthma-related genes by integrating AHR associations in mouse with human genome-wide association study (GWAS) data. We used Efficient Mixed Model Association (EMMA) analysis to conduct a GWAS of baseline AHR measures from males and females of 31 mouse strains. Genes near or containing SNPs with EMMA p-values <0.001 were selected for further study in human GWAS. The results of the previously reported EVE consortium asthma GWAS meta-analysis consisting of 12,958 diverse North American subjects from 9 study centers were used to select a subset of homologous genes with evidence of association with asthma in humans. Following validation attempts in three human asthma GWAS (i.e., Sepracor/LOCCS/LODO/Illumina, GABRIEL, DAG) and two human AHR GWAS (i.e., SHARP, DAG), the Kv channel interacting protein 4 (KCNIP4) gene was identified as nominally associated with both asthma and AHR at a gene- and SNP-level. In EVE, the smallest KCNIP4 association was at rs6833065 (P-value 2.9e-04), while the strongest associations for Sepracor/LOCCS/LODO/Illumina, GABRIEL, DAG were 1.5e-03, 1.0e-03, 3.1e-03 at rs7664617, rs4697177, rs4696975, respectively. At a SNP level, the strongest association across all asthma GWAS was at rs4697177 (P-value 1.1e-04). The smallest P-values for association with AHR were 2.3e-03 at rs11947661 in SHARP and 2.1e-03 at rs402802 in DAG. Functional studies are required to validate the potential involvement of KCNIP4 in modulating asthma susceptibility and/or AHR. Our results suggest that a useful approach to identify genes associated with human asthma is to leverage mouse AHR association data.
PMCID: PMC3572953  PMID: 23457522
22.  Acute and chronic inflammatory responses induced by smoking in individuals susceptible and non-susceptible to development of COPD: from specific disease phenotyping towards novel therapy. Protocol of a cross-sectional study 
BMJ Open  2013;3(2):e002178.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a heterogeneous disease with pulmonary and extra-pulmonary manifestations. Although COPD is a complex disease, diagnosis and staging are still based on simple spirometry measurements. Different COPD phenotypes exist based on clinical, physiological, immunological and radiological observations. Cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for COPD, but only 15–20% of smokers develop the disease, suggesting a genetic predisposition. Unfortunately, little is known about the pathogenesis of COPD, and even less on the very first steps that are associated with an aberrant response to smoke exposure. This study aims to investigate the underlying local and systemic inflammation of different clinical COPD phenotypes, and acute effects of cigarette smoke exposure in individuals susceptible and non-susceptible for the development of COPD. Furthermore, we will investigate mechanisms associated with corticosteroid insensitivity. Our study will provide valuable information regarding the pathogenetic mechanisms underlying the natural course of COPD.
Methods and analysis
This cross-sectional study will include young and old individuals susceptible or non-susceptible to develop COPD. At a young age (18–40 years) 60 ‘party smokers’ will be included who are called susceptible or non-susceptible based on COPD prevalence in smoking family members. In addition, 30 healthy smokers (age 40–75 years) and 110 COPD patients will be included. Measurements will include questionnaires, pulmonary function, low-dose CT scanning of the lung, body composition, 6 min walking distance and biomarkers in peripheral blood, sputum, urine, exhaled breath condensate, epithelial lining fluid, bronchial brushes and biopsies. Non-biased approaches such as proteomics will be performed in blood and epithelial lining fluid.
Ethics and dissemination
This multicentre study was approved by the medical ethical committees of UMC Groningen and Utrecht, the Netherlands. The study findings will be presented at conferences and will be reported in peer-reviewed journals.
Trial registration, NCT00807469 (study 1) and NCT00850863 (study 2).
PMCID: PMC3586075  PMID: 23377993
COPD; Inflammation; Susceptibility; Corticosteroid insensitivity; Smoking
23.  Low-dose CT measurements of airway dimensions and emphysema associated with airflow limitation in heavy smokers: a cross sectional study 
Respiratory Research  2013;14(1):11.
Increased airway wall thickness (AWT) and parenchymal lung destruction both contribute to airflow limitation. Advances in computed tomography (CT) post-processing imaging allow to quantify these features. The aim of this Dutch population study is to assess the relationships between AWT, lung function, emphysema and respiratory symptoms.
AWT and emphysema were assessed by low-dose CT in 500 male heavy smokers, randomly selected from a lung cancer screening population. AWT was measured in each lung lobe in cross-sectionally reformatted images with an automated imaging program at locations with an internal diameter of 3.5 mm, and validated in smaller cohorts of patients. The 15th percentile method (Perc15) was used to assess the severity of emphysema. Information about respiratory symptoms and smoking behavior was collected by questionnaires and lung function by spirometry.
Median AWT in airways with an internal diameter of 3.5 mm (AWT3.5) was 0.57 (0.44 - 0.74) mm. Median AWT in subjects without symptoms was 0.52 (0.41-0.66) and in those with dyspnea and/or wheezing 0.65 (0.52-0.81) mm (p<0.001). In the multivariate analysis only AWT3.5 and emphysema independently explained 31.1%and 9.5%of the variance in FEV1%predicted, respectively, after adjustment for smoking behavior.
Post processing standardization of airway wall measurements provides a reliable and useful method to assess airway wall thickness. Increased airway wall thickness contributes more to airflow limitation than emphysema in a smoking male population even after adjustment for smoking behavior.
PMCID: PMC3570364  PMID: 23356533
Airway dimensions; Low-dose CT; Respiratory symptoms; Smoking; Airflow limitation; Emphysema
24.  Atopy is a risk factor for respiratory symptoms in COPD patients: results from the EUROSCOP study 
Respiratory Research  2013;14(1):10.
The pathogenesis of COPD is complex and remains poorly understood. The European Respiratory Society Study on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (EUROSCOP) investigated long-term effects of budesonide; 18% of the COPD participants were atopic. So far effects of atopy on the long-term course of COPD have not been elucidated.
Factors related to the presence of atopy (positive phadiatop) in 1277 mild-to-moderate COPD patients participating in EUROSCOP were analysed using regression analysis. Incidence and remission of respiratory symptoms during 3-year follow-up were analysed using generalised estimating equations models, and association of atopy with lung function decline using linear mixed effects models.
Independent predisposing factors associated with the presence of atopy were: male gender (OR: 2.21; 95% CI: 1.47–3.34), overweight/obese (OR: 1.41; 95% CI: 1.04–1.92) and lower age (OR: 0.98; 95% CI: 0.96–0.99). Atopy was associated with a higher prevalence of cough (OR: 1.71; 95% CI: 1.26–2.34) and phlegm (OR: 1.50; 95% CI: 1.10–2.03), but not with lung function levels or FEV1 decline. Atopic COPD patients not treated with budesonide had an increased incidence of cough over time (OR: 1.79, 95% CI: 1.03–3.08, p = 0.038), while those treated with budesonide had increased remission of cough (OR: 1.93, 95% CI: 1.11–3.37, p = 0.02) compared to non-atopic COPD patients.
Atopic COPD patients are more likely male, have overweight/obesity and are younger as compared with non-atopic COPD patients. Atopy in COPD is associated with an increased incidence and prevalence of respiratory symptoms. If atopic COPD patients are treated with budesonide, they more often show remission of symptoms compared to non-atopic COPD patients who are treated with budesonide. We recommend including atopy in the diagnostic work-up and management of COPD.
PMCID: PMC3599617  PMID: 23356508
Allergy; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Corticosteroid; Gender; Lung function; Respiratory symptoms
25.  Variants in the 15q24/25 Locus Associate with Lung Function Decline in Active Smokers 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53219.
Genetic variation in nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit genes (nAChRs) is associated with lung function level and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is unknown whether these variants also predispose to an accelerated lung function decline. We investigated the association of nAChR susceptibility variants with lung function decline and COPD severity. The rs1051730 and rs8034191 variants were genotyped in a population-based cohort of 1,226 heavy smokers (COPACETIC) and in an independent cohort of 883 heavy smokers, of which 653 with COPD of varying severity (LEUVEN). Participants underwent pulmonary function tests at baseline. Lung function decline was assessed over a median follow-up of 3 years in COPACETIC. Current smokers homozygous for the rs1051730 A-allele or rs8034191 G-allele had significantly greater FEV1/FVC decline than homozygous carriers of wild-type alleles (3.3% and 4.3%, p = 0.026 and p = 0.009, respectively). In the LEUVEN cohort, rs1051730 AA-carriers and rs8034191 GG-carriers had a two-fold increased risk to suffer from COPD GOLD IV (OR 2.29, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.11–4.75; p = 0.025 and OR = 2.42, 95% [CI] = 1.18–4.95; p = 0.016, respectively). The same risk alleles conferred, respectively, a five- and four-fold increased risk to be referred for lung transplantation because of end-stage COPD (OR = 5.0, 95% [CI] = 1.68–14.89; p = 0.004 and OR = 4.06, 95% [CI] = 1.39–11.88; p = 0.010). In Europeans, variants in nAChRs associate with an accelerated lung function decline in current smokers and with clinically relevant COPD.
PMCID: PMC3548843  PMID: 23349703

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