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1.  Plasma Fibrinogen as a Biomarker for Mortality and Hospitalized Exacerbations in People with COPD 
In 2010 the COPD Foundation established the COPD Biomarkers Qualification Consortium (CBQC) as a partnership between the Foundation, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the pharmaceutical industry to pool publicly-funded and industry data to develop innovative tools to facilitate the development and approval of new therapies for COPD. We present data from the initial project seeking regulatory qualification of fibrinogen as a biomarker for the stratification of COPD patients into clinical trials.
This analysis pooled data from 4 publicly-funded studies and 1 industry study into a common database resulting in 6376 individuals with spirometric evidence of COPD. We used a threshold of 350 mg/dL to determine high vs. low fibrinogen, and determined the subsequent risk of hospitalizations from exacerbations and death using Cox proportional hazards models.
High fibrinogen levels at baseline were present in 2853 (44.7%) of individuals with COPD. High fibrinogen was associated with an increased risk of hospitalized COPD exacerbations within 12 months (hazard ratio [HR]: 1.64; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.39–1.93) among participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC), the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS), and the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints (ECLIPSE) study. High fibrinogen was associated with an increased risk of death within 36 months (HR: 1.94; 95% CI: 1.62–2.31) among all participants.
Fibrinogen levels ≥ 350 mg/dL identify COPD individuals at an increased risk of exacerbations and death and could be a useful biomarker for enriching clinical trials in the COPD population.
PMCID: PMC4326107
fibrinogen; COPD; biomarker
2.  Design of a multi-center immunophenotyping analysis of peripheral blood, sputum and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid in the Subpopulations and Intermediate Outcome Measures in COPD Study (SPIROMICS) 
Subpopulations and Intermediate Outcomes in COPD Study (SPIROMICS) is a multi-center longitudinal, observational study to identify novel phenotypes and biomarkers of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In a subset of 300 subjects enrolled at six clinical centers, we are performing flow cytometric analyses of leukocytes from induced sputum, bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) and peripheral blood. To minimize several sources of variability, we use a “just-in-time” design that permits immediate staining without pre-fixation of samples, followed by centralized analysis on a single instrument.
The Immunophenotyping Core prepares 12-color antibody panels, which are shipped to the six Clinical Centers shortly before study visits. Sputum induction occurs at least two weeks before a bronchoscopy visit, at which time peripheral blood and bronchoalveolar lavage are collected. Immunostaining is performed at each clinical site on the day that the samples are collected. Samples are fixed and express shipped to the Immunophenotyping Core for data acquisition on a single modified LSR II flow cytometer. Results are analyzed using FACS Diva and FloJo software and cross-checked by Core scientists who are blinded to subject data.
Thus far, a total of 152 sputum samples and 117 samples of blood and BAL have been returned to the Immunophenotyping Core. Initial quality checks indicate useable data from 126 sputum samples (83%), 106 blood samples (91%) and 91 BAL samples (78%). In all three sample types, we are able to identify and characterize the activation state or subset of multiple leukocyte cell populations (including CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, B cells, monocytes, macrophages, neutrophils and eosinophils), thereby demonstrating the validity of the antibody panel.
Our study design, which relies on bi-directional communication between clinical centers and the Core according to a pre-specified protocol, appears to reduce several sources of variability often seen in flow cytometric studies involving multiple clinical sites. Because leukocytes contribute to lung pathology in COPD, these analyses will help achieve SPIROMICS aims of identifying subgroups of patients with specific COPD phenotypes. Future analyses will correlate cell-surface markers on a given cell type with smoking history, spirometry, airway measurements, and other parameters.
Trial registration
This study was registered with as NCT01969344.
PMCID: PMC4314767  PMID: 25622723
Human; COPD; Flow cytometry; Sputum; Bronchoalveolar lavage; Immunophenotyping
3.  Identifying a gene expression signature of frequent COPD exacerbations in peripheral blood using network methods 
Exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), characterized by acute deterioration in symptoms, may be due to bacterial or viral infections, environmental exposures, or unknown factors. Exacerbation frequency may be a stable trait in COPD patients, which could imply genetic susceptibility. Observing the genes, networks, and pathways that are up- and down-regulated in COPD patients with differing susceptibility to exacerbations will help to elucidate the molecular signature and pathogenesis of COPD exacerbations.
Gene expression array and plasma biomarker data were obtained using whole-blood samples from subjects enrolled in the Treatment of Emphysema With a Gamma-Selective Retinoid Agonist (TESRA) study. Linear regression, weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA), and pathway analysis were used to identify signatures and network sub-modules associated with the number of exacerbations within the previous year; other COPD-related phenotypes were also investigated.
Individual genes were not found to be significantly associated with the number of exacerbations. However using network methods, a statistically significant gene module was identified, along with other modules showing moderate association. A diverse signature was observed across these modules using pathway analysis, marked by differences in B cell and NK cell activity, as well as cellular markers of viral infection. Within two modules, gene set enrichment analysis recapitulated the molecular signatures of two gene expression experiments; one involving sputum from asthma exacerbations and another involving viral lung infections. The plasma biomarker myeloperoxidase (MPO) was associated with the number of recent exacerbations.
A distinct signature of COPD exacerbations may be observed in peripheral blood months following the acute illness. While not predictive in this cross-sectional analysis, these results will be useful in uncovering the molecular pathogenesis of COPD exacerbations.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12920-014-0072-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4302028  PMID: 25582225
Network analysis; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Gene expression profiling; Biomarker
4.  A Simplified Score to Quantify Comorbidity in COPD 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114438.
Comorbidities are common in COPD, but quantifying their burden is difficult. Currently there is a COPD-specific comorbidity index to predict mortality and another to predict general quality of life. We sought to develop and validate a COPD-specific comorbidity score that reflects comorbidity burden on patient-centered outcomes.
Materials and Methods
Using the COPDGene study (GOLD II-IV COPD), we developed comorbidity scores to describe patient-centered outcomes employing three techniques: 1) simple count, 2) weighted score, and 3) weighted score based upon statistical selection procedure. We tested associations, area under the Curve (AUC) and calibration statistics to validate scores internally with outcomes of respiratory disease-specific quality of life (St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire, SGRQ), six minute walk distance (6MWD), modified Medical Research Council (mMRC) dyspnea score and exacerbation risk, ultimately choosing one score for external validation in SPIROMICS.
Associations between comorbidities and all outcomes were comparable across the three scores. All scores added predictive ability to models including age, gender, race, current smoking status, pack-years smoked and FEV1 (p<0.001 for all comparisons). Area under the curve (AUC) was similar between all three scores across outcomes: SGRQ (range 0·7624–0·7676), MMRC (0·7590–0·7644), 6MWD (0·7531–0·7560) and exacerbation risk (0·6831–0·6919). Because of similar performance, the comorbidity count was used for external validation. In the SPIROMICS cohort, the comorbidity count performed well to predict SGRQ (AUC 0·7891), MMRC (AUC 0·7611), 6MWD (AUC 0·7086), and exacerbation risk (AUC 0·7341).
Quantifying comorbidity provides a more thorough understanding of the risk for patient-centered outcomes in COPD. A comorbidity count performs well to quantify comorbidity in a diverse population with COPD.
PMCID: PMC4267736  PMID: 25514500
5.  Sexually-dimorphic targeting of functionally-related genes in COPD 
BMC Systems Biology  2014;8(1):118.
There is growing evidence that many diseases develop, progress, and respond to therapy differently in men and women. This variability may manifest as a result of sex-specific structures in gene regulatory networks that influence how those networks operate. However, there are few methods to identify and characterize differences in network structure, slowing progress in understanding mechanisms driving sexual dimorphism.
Here we apply an integrative network inference method, PANDA (Passing Attributes between Networks for Data Assimilation), to model sex-specific networks in blood and sputum samples from subjects with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). We used a jack-knifing approach to build an ensemble of likely networks for each sex. By adapting statistical methods to compare these network ensembles, we were able to identify strong differential-targeting patterns associated with functionally-related sets of genes, including those involved in mitochondrial function and energy metabolism. Network analysis also identified several potential sex- and disease-specific transcriptional regulators of these pathways.
Network analysis yielded insight into potential mechanisms driving sexual dimorphism in COPD that were not evident from gene expression analysis alone. We believe our ensemble approach to network analysis provides a principled way to capture sex-specific regulatory relationships and could be applied to identify differences in gene regulatory patterns in a wide variety of diseases and contexts.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12918-014-0118-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4269917  PMID: 25431000
Network modeling; Gene regulation; Regulatory networks; Sexual-dimorphism; Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease
6.  Comparison of Spatially Matched Airways Reveals Thinner Airway Walls in COPD. The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) COPD Study and the Subpopulations and Intermediate Outcomes in COPD Study (SPIROMICS) 
Thorax  2014;69(11):987-996.
COPD is characterized by reduced airway lumen dimensions and fewer peripheral airways. Most studies of airway properties sample airways based upon lumen dimension or at random, which may bias comparisons given reduced airway lumen dimensions and number in COPD. We sought to compare central airway wall dimensions on computed tomography (CT) in COPD and controls using spatially matched airways, thereby avoiding selection bias of airways in the lung.
The MESA COPD Study and SPIROMICS recruited smokers with COPD and controls aged 50–79 years and 40–80 years, respectively. COPD was defined by current guidelines. Using CT image data, airway dimensions were measured for all central airway segments (generations 0–6) following 5 standardized paths into the lungs. Case-control airway comparisons were spatially matched by generation and adjusted for demographics, body size, smoking, CT dose, percent emphysema, airway length, and lung volume.
Among 311 MESA COPD participants, airway wall areas at generations 3–6 were smaller in COPD compared to controls(all p<0.001). Among 1248 SPIROMICS participants, airway wall areas at generations 1–6 were smaller(all p<0.001), and this reduction was monotonic with increasing COPD severity(P<0.001). In both studies, sampling airways by lumen diameter or randomly resulted in a comparison of more proximal airways in COPD to more peripheral airways in controls(p<0.001) resulting in the appearance of thicker walls in COPD(p<0.02).
Airway walls are thinner in COPD when comparing spatially matched central airways. Other approaches to airway sampling result in comparisons of more proximal to more distal airways and potentially biased assessment of airway properties in COPD.
PMCID: PMC4198462  PMID: 24928812
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; computed tomography; airways; walls
7.  Non-emphysematous chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is associated with diabetes mellitus 
BMC Pulmonary Medicine  2014;14(1):164.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been classically divided into blue bloaters and pink puffers. The utility of these clinical subtypes is unclear. However, the broader distinction between airway-predominant and emphysema-predominant COPD may be clinically relevant. The objective was to define clinical features of emphysema-predominant and non-emphysematous COPD patients.
Current and former smokers from the Genetic Epidemiology of COPD Study (COPDGene) had chest computed tomography (CT) scans with quantitative image analysis. Emphysema-predominant COPD was defined by low attenuation area at -950 Hounsfield Units (LAA-950) ≥10%. Non-emphysematous COPD was defined by airflow obstruction with minimal to no emphysema (LAA-950 < 5%).
Out of 4197 COPD subjects, 1687 were classified as emphysema-predominant and 1817 as non-emphysematous; 693 had LAA-950 between 5–10% and were not categorized. Subjects with emphysema-predominant COPD were older (65.6 vs 60.6 years, p < 0.0001) with more severe COPD based on airflow obstruction (FEV1 44.5 vs 68.4%, p < 0.0001), greater exercise limitation (6-minute walk distance 1138 vs 1331 ft, p < 0.0001) and reduced quality of life (St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire score 43 vs 31, p < 0.0001). Self-reported diabetes was more frequent in non-emphysematous COPD (OR 2.13, p < 0.001), which was also confirmed using a strict definition of diabetes based on medication use. The association between diabetes and non-emphysematous COPD was replicated in the ECLIPSE study.
Non-emphysematous COPD, defined by airflow obstruction with a paucity of emphysema on chest CT scan, is associated with an increased risk of diabetes. COPD patients without emphysema may warrant closer monitoring for diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia and vice versa.
Trial registration identifiers: COPDGene NCT00608764, ECLIPSE NCT00292552.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2466-14-164) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4216374  PMID: 25341556
Airway disease; CT scan; Diabetes mellitus; Emphysema; Spirometry
8.  Efficacy and safety of fixed-dose combinations of aclidinium bromide/formoterol fumarate: the 24-week, randomized, placebo-controlled AUGMENT COPD study 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):123.
Combining two long-acting bronchodilators with complementary mechanisms of action may provide treatment benefits to patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that are greater than those derived from either treatment alone. The efficacy and safety of a fixed-dose combination (FDC) of aclidinium bromide, a long-acting muscarinic antagonist, and formoterol fumarate, a long-acting β2-agonist, in patients with moderate to severe COPD are presented.
In this 24-week double-blind study, 1692 patients with stable COPD were equally randomized to twice-daily treatment with FDC aclidinium 400 μg/formoterol 12 μg (ACL400/FOR12 FDC), FDC aclidinium 400 μg/formoterol 6 μg (ACL400/FOR6 FDC), aclidinium 400 μg, formoterol 12 μg, or placebo administered by a multidose dry powder inhaler (Genuair®/Pressair®)*. Coprimary endpoints were change from baseline to week 24 in 1-hour morning postdose FEV1 (FDCs versus aclidinium) and change from baseline to week 24 in morning predose (trough) FEV1 (FDCs versus formoterol). Secondary endpoints were change from baseline in St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) total score and improvement in Transition Dyspnea Index (TDI) focal score at week 24. Safety and tolerability were also assessed.
At study end, improvements from baseline in 1-hour postdose FEV1 were significantly greater in patients treated with ACL400/FOR12 FDC or ACL400/FOR6 FDC compared with aclidinium (108 mL and 87 mL, respectively; p < 0.0001). Improvements in trough FEV1 were significantly greater in patients treated with ACL400/FOR12 FDC versus formoterol (45 mL; p = 0.0102), a numerical improvement of 26 mL in trough FEV1 over formoterol was observed with ACL400/FOR6 FDC. Significant improvements in both SGRQ total and TDI focal scores were observed in the ACL400/FOR12 FDC group at study end (p < 0.0001), with differences over placebo exceeding the minimal clinically important difference of ≥4 points and ≥1 unit, respectively. All treatments were well tolerated, with safety profiles of the FDCs similar to those of the monotherapies.
Treatment with twice-daily aclidinium 400 μg/formoterol 12 μg FDC provided rapid and sustained bronchodilation that was greater than either monotherapy; clinically significant improvements in dyspnea and health status were evident compared with placebo. Aclidinium/formoterol FDC may be an effective and well tolerated new treatment option for patients with COPD.
Trial registration NCT01437397.
*Registered trademarks of Almirall S.A., Barcelona, Spain; for use within the US as Pressair® and Genuair® within all other licensed territories.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12931-014-0123-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4213545
Aclidinium; Formoterol; COPD; Lung function; Dyspnea; Health status
9.  The association of plasma biomarkers with computed tomography-assessed emphysema phenotypes 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):127.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a phenotypically heterogeneous disease. In COPD, the presence of emphysema is associated with increased mortality and risk of lung cancer. High resolution computed tomography (HRCT) scans are useful in quantifying emphysema but are associated with radiation exposure and high incidence of false positive findings (i.e., nodules). Using a comprehensive biomarker panel, we sought to determine if there was a peripheral blood biomarker signature of emphysema.
114 plasma biomarkers were measured using a custom assay in 588 individuals enrolled in the COPDGene study. Quantitative emphysema measurements included percent low lung attenuation (%LAA) ≤ −950 HU, ≤ − 910 HU and mean lung attenuation at the 15th percentile on lung attenuation curve (LP15A). Multiple regression analysis was performed to determine plasma biomarkers associated with emphysema independent of covariates age, gender, smoking status, body mass index and FEV1. The findings were subsequently validated using baseline blood samples from a separate cohort of 388 subjects enrolled in the Treatment of Emphysema with a Selective Retinoid Agonist (TESRA) study.
Regression analysis identified multiple biomarkers associated with CT-assessed emphysema in COPDGene, including advanced glycosylation end-products receptor (AGER or RAGE, p < 0.001), intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM, p < 0.001), and chemokine ligand 20 (CCL20, p < 0.001). Validation in the TESRA cohort revealed significant associations with RAGE, ICAM1, and CCL20 with radiologic emphysema (p < 0.001 after meta-analysis). Other biomarkers that were associated with emphysema include CDH1, CDH 13 and SERPINA7, but were not available for validation in the TESRA study. Receiver operating characteristics analysis demonstrated a benefit of adding a biomarker panel to clinical covariates for detecting emphysema, especially in those without severe airflow limitation (AUC 0.85).
Our findings, suggest that a panel of blood biomarkers including sRAGE, ICAM1 and CCL20 may serve as a useful surrogate measure of emphysema, and when combined with clinical covariates, may be useful clinically in predicting the presence of emphysema compared to just using covariates alone, especially in those with less severe COPD. Ultimately biomarkers may shed light on disease pathogenesis, providing targets for new treatments.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12931-014-0127-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4198701  PMID: 25306249
COPD; Biomarkers; RAGE; ICAM1; CCL20; Emphysema
10.  Influence of diet and obesity on COPD development and outcomes 
The global increase in the prevalence and incidence of obesity has called serious attention to this issue as a major public health concern. Obesity is associated with many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and recently the role of overweight and obesity in lung disease has received new interest. Independently of obesity, diet also plays a role as a risk factor for many chronic diseases, and evidence is accumulating to support a role for diet in the prevention and management of several lung diseases. Chronic obstructive lung disease is the third-leading cause of death globally, and both obesity and diet appear to play roles in its pathophysiology. Obesity has been associated with decreased lung-function measures in population-based studies, with increased prevalence of several lung diseases and with compromised pulmonary function. In contrast, obesity has a protective effect against mortality in severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Nutrient intake and dietary patterns have also been associated with lung-function measures and the development and progression of COPD. Taken together, this suggests that a focus on obesity and diet should be part of public health campaigns to reduce the burden of lung disease, and could have important implications for clinicians in the management of their patients. Future research should also focus on elucidating these relationships in diverse populations and age-groups, and on understanding the complex interaction between behavior, environment, and genetics in the development and progression of COPD. The goal of this article is to review current evidence regarding the role that obesity and diet play in the development of COPD, and in COPD-related outcomes.
PMCID: PMC4130708  PMID: 25125974
diet; obesity; nutrition; lung function; COPD
11.  Immunogenicity and Smoking Cessation Outcomes for a Novel Nicotine Immunotherapeutic 
NicVAX®, a nicotine vaccine (3’AmNic-rEPA), has been clinically evaluated to determine if higher antibody concentrations are associated with higher smoking abstinence rates and if doses and frequency of administration are associated with increased antibody response. This randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled multicenter clinical trial (N=301 smokers) tested 200 and 400 µg doses administered 4 or 5 times over 6 months compared to placebo. 3’AmNic-rEPA recipients with the highest serum anti-nicotine antibody response (top 30% by AUC) were significantly more likely to attain 8 weeks continuous abstinence from weeks 19 through 26 than the placebo recipients (24.6% vs. 12.0%, p=0.024, OR=2.69, 95% CI, 1.14–6.37). The 5 injection 400 µg dose regimen had the greatest antibody response and had significantly higher abstinence rates than placebo. This study demonstrates proof-of-concept that 3’AmNic-rEPA elicits antibodies to nicotine and is associated with higher continuous abstinence rates, justifying its further development as a treatment for nicotine dependence.
PMCID: PMC4106715  PMID: 21270788
3’AmNic-rEPA; NicVAX; nicotine immunotherapeutic; nicotine vaccine; cigarette; smoking cessation; antibody; P. aeruginosa r-Exoprotein A; aminomethyl nicotine; cotinine; CO
12.  Randomized study of the safety, pharmacokinetics, and bronchodilatory efficacy of a proprietary glycopyrronium metered-dose inhaler in study patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
BMC Pulmonary Medicine  2014;14:118.
Bronchodilator medications are central to the symptomatic management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Metered-dose inhalers (MDIs) are the most commonly used devices to deliver treatment to patients with COPD and asthma, comprising approximately 70% of bronchodilator prescriptions. Proprietary porous-particle technology permits the formulation of long-acting muscarinic antagonists, long-acting β2-agonists, and a combination of both in hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) MDIs, providing a solution to formulation challenges inherent to the development of HFA MDIs, which have contributed to the development of dry-powder inhalers.
In this randomized, double-blind, 4-period, 6-treatment, placebo- and active-controlled, multicenter, crossover study, 4 ascending single doses of a proprietary glycopyrronium (GP) MDI were evaluated compared with Placebo MDI and open-label tiotropium (TIO) in study patients with COPD. Thirty-three study patients were enrolled and received single-dose administration of 4 of the 6 treatments (Placebo MDI, TIO 18 μg, or GP MDI at 14.4, 28.8, 57.6, and 115.2 μg ex-actuator) with an interval of 1 to 3 weeks between doses. The primary efficacy endpoint was peak change in forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1).
All 4 doses of GP MDI showed statistically superior efficacy compared with Placebo MDI for peak FEV1 (differences of 146 to 248 mL; P < .001), with a clear dose ordering of the response. Statistically significant differences compared with Placebo MDI were noted at almost all doses for the secondary FEV1 parameters (P ≤ .049) except 24-hour trough FEV1 at 28.8 μg. All doses were safe and well tolerated in this study; the most frequently reported adverse event was dry mouth (0–14.3% across doses; 9.5% for Placebo MDI, and 9.1% for TIO).
This study demonstrated superior bronchodilatory efficacy of GP MDI compared with Placebo MDI at all doses tested, and no serious adverse events were reported. This study supports the further evaluation of GP MDI in study patients with COPD. In addition, these findings indicate that the correct dosage of glycopyrronium is no more than 115.2 μg total daily dose, or 57.6 μg twice daily based on comparisons with the active comparator.
Trial registration
This clinical trial was registered on, Identifier: NCT00871182.
PMCID: PMC4124171  PMID: 25027304
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Glycopyrronium; Porous particle technology; Long-acting anticholinergic; Long-acting muscarinic antagonist
13.  Analyzing networks of phenotypes in complex diseases: methodology and applications in COPD 
BMC Systems Biology  2014;8:78.
The investigation of complex disease heterogeneity has been challenging. Here, we introduce a network-based approach, using partial correlations, that analyzes the relationships among multiple disease-related phenotypes.
We applied this method to two large, well-characterized studies of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We also examined the associations between these COPD phenotypic networks and other factors, including case-control status, disease severity, and genetic variants. Using these phenotypic networks, we have detected novel relationships between phenotypes that would not have been observed using traditional epidemiological approaches.
Phenotypic network analysis of complex diseases could provide novel insights into disease susceptibility, disease severity, and genetic mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC4105829  PMID: 24964944
Network medicine; Phenotypic networks; COPD; Genetic association analysis
14.  Roflumilast and dyspnea in patients with moderate to very severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a pooled analysis of four clinical trials 
Breathlessness is a predominant symptom of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), making it a valuable outcome in addition to lung function to assess treatment benefit. The phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitor roflumilast has been shown to provide small but significant improvements in dyspnea, as measured by the transition dyspnea index (TDI), in two 1-year studies in patients with severe to very severe COPD.
Patients and methods
To provide a more comprehensive assessment of the impact of roflumilast on dyspnea, post hoc analyses of four 1-year roflumilast studies (M2-111, M2-112, M2-124, and M2-125) in patients with moderate to very severe COPD were conducted.
In this pooled analysis (N=5,595), roflumilast significantly improved TDI focal scores versus placebo at week 52 (treatment difference, 0.327; P<0.0001). Roflumilast was associated with significantly greater TDI responders and significantly fewer TDI deteriorators (≥1-unit increase or decrease from baseline, respectively) versus placebo at week 52 (P<0.01, both); these significant differences were apparent by week 8 and maintained until study end (P<0.05, all). At study end, the postbronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 second improvement in TDI responders was significantly greater with roflumilast versus placebo (P<0.05). Similar to the overall population, improvements in TDI focal scores at week 52 were small but consistently significant over placebo in patients with chronic bronchitis, regardless of exacerbation history, concomitant treatment with short-acting muscarinic antagonists or long-acting β2-agonists, or pretreatment with inhaled corticosteroids.
This analysis shows that patients treated with roflumilast to reduce exacerbation risk may also experience small but significant improvements in dyspnea, with accompanying improvements in lung function.
PMCID: PMC4075954  PMID: 25018629
phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitor; breathlessness; lung function; subgroup analyses
15.  Gene expression analysis uncovers novel Hedgehog interacting protein (HHIP) effects in human bronchial epithelial cells 
Genomics  2013;101(5):263-272.
Hedgehog Interacting Protein (HHIP) was implicated in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by genome-wide association studies (GWAS). However, it remains unclear how HHIP contributes to COPD pathogenesis. To identify genes regulated by HHIP, we performed gene expression microarray analysis in a human bronchial epithelial cell line (Beas-2B) stably infected with HHIP shRNAs. HHIP silencing led to differential expression of 296 genes; enrichment for variants nominally associated with COPD was found. Eighteen of the differentially expressed genes were validated by real-time PCR in Beas-2B cells. Seven of 11 validated genes tested in human COPD and control lung tissues demonstrated significant gene expression differences. Functional annotation indicated enrichment for extracellular matrix and cell growth genes. Network modeling demonstrated that the extracellular matrix and cell proliferation genes influenced by HHIP tended to be interconnected. Thus, we identified potential HHIP targets in human bronchial epithelial cells that may contribute to COPD pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3659826  PMID: 23459001
Hedgehog interacting protein (HHIP); Gene expression profiling; COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease); extracellular matrix (ECM); network modeling
16.  Dissecting direct and indirect genetic effects on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) susceptibility 
Human genetics  2013;132(4):431-441.
Cigarette smoking is the major environmental risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Genome-wide association studies have provided compelling associations for three loci with COPD. In this study, we aimed to estimate direct, i.e., independent from smoking, and indirect effects of those loci on COPD development using mediation analysis. We included a total of 3,424 COPD cases and 1,872 unaffected controls with data on two smoking-related phenotypes: lifetime average smoking intensity and cumulative exposure to tobacco smoke (pack years). Our analysis revealed that effects of two linked variants (rs1051730 and rs8034191) in the AGPHD1/CHRNA3 cluster on COPD development are significantly, yet not entirely, mediated by the smoking-related phenotypes. Approximately 30 % of the total effect of variants in the AGPHD1/CHRNA3 cluster on COPD development was mediated by pack years. Simultaneous analysis of modestly (r2 = 0.21) linked markers in CHRNA3 and IREB2 revealed that an even larger (~42 %) proportion of the total effect of the CHRNA3 locus on COPD was mediated by pack years after adjustment for an IREB2 single nucleotide polymorphism. This study confirms the existence of direct effects of the AGPHD1/CHRNA3, IREB2, FAM13A and HHIP loci on COPD development. While the association of the AGPHD1/CHRNA3 locus with COPD is significantly mediated by smoking-related phenotypes, IREB2 appears to affect COPD independently of smoking.
PMCID: PMC3600068  PMID: 23299987
17.  A diVIsive Shuffling Approach (VIStA) for gene expression analysis to identify subtypes in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
BMC Systems Biology  2014;8(Suppl 2):S8.
An important step toward understanding the biological mechanisms underlying a complex disease is a refined understanding of its clinical heterogeneity. Relating clinical and molecular differences may allow us to define more specific subtypes of patients that respond differently to therapeutic interventions.
We developed a novel unbiased method called diVIsive Shuffling Approach (VIStA) that identifies subgroups of patients by maximizing the difference in their gene expression patterns. We tested our algorithm on 140 subjects with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and found four distinct, biologically and clinically meaningful combinations of clinical characteristics that are associated with large gene expression differences. The dominant characteristic in these combinations was the severity of airflow limitation. Other frequently identified measures included emphysema, fibrinogen levels, phlegm, BMI and age. A pathway analysis of the differentially expressed genes in the identified subtypes suggests that VIStA is capable of capturing specific molecular signatures within in each group.
The introduced methodology allowed us to identify combinations of clinical characteristics that correspond to clear gene expression differences. The resulting subtypes for COPD contribute to a better understanding of its heterogeneity.
PMCID: PMC4101699  PMID: 25032995
Chronic Bronchitis; COPD; Emphysema; subtyping; gene expression analysis
18.  Comparison of serum, EDTA plasma and P100 plasma for luminex-based biomarker multiplex assays in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the SPIROMICS study 
As a part of the longitudinal Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) study, Subpopulations and Intermediate Outcome Measures in COPD study (SPIROMICS), blood samples are being collected from 3200 subjects with the goal of identifying blood biomarkers for sub-phenotyping patients and predicting disease progression. To determine the most reliable sample type for measuring specific blood analytes in the cohort, a pilot study was performed from a subset of 24 subjects comparing serum, Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) plasma, and EDTA plasma with proteinase inhibitors (P100™).
105 analytes, chosen for potential relevance to COPD, arranged in 12 multiplex and one simplex platform (Myriad-RBM) were evaluated in duplicate from the three sample types from 24 subjects. The reliability coefficient and the coefficient of variation (CV) were calculated. The performance of each analyte and mean analyte levels were evaluated across sample types.
20% of analytes were not consistently detectable in any sample type. Higher reliability and/or smaller CV were determined for 12 analytes in EDTA plasma compared to serum, and for 11 analytes in serum compared to EDTA plasma. While reliability measures were similar for EDTA plasma and P100 plasma for a majority of analytes, CV was modestly increased in P100 plasma for eight analytes. Each analyte within a multiplex produced independent measurement characteristics, complicating selection of sample type for individual multiplexes.
There were notable detectability and measurability differences between serum and plasma. Multiplexing may not be ideal if large reliability differences exist across analytes measured within the multiplex, especially if values differ based on sample type. For some analytes, the large CV should be considered during experimental design, and the use of duplicate and/or triplicate samples may be necessary. These results should prove useful for studies evaluating selection of samples for evaluation of potential blood biomarkers.
PMCID: PMC3928911  PMID: 24397870
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; COPD; SPIROMICS; Biomarkers; Blood analytes; Multiplex assays; P100 plasma; Serum; EDTA plasma; Pilot study
19.  Genome-Wide Association Analysis of Blood Biomarkers in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Rationale: A genome-wide association study (GWAS) for circulating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) biomarkers could identify genetic determinants of biomarker levels and COPD susceptibility.
Objectives: To identify genetic variants of circulating protein biomarkers and novel genetic determinants of COPD.
Methods: GWAS was performed for two pneumoproteins, Clara cell secretory protein (CC16) and surfactant protein D (SP-D), and five systemic inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, IL-6, IL-8, and tumor necrosis factor-α) in 1,951 subjects with COPD. For genome-wide significant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (P < 1 × 10−8), association with COPD susceptibility was tested in 2,939 cases with COPD and 1,380 smoking control subjects. The association of candidate SNPs with mRNA expression in induced sputum was also elucidated.
Measurements and Main Results: Genome-wide significant susceptibility loci affecting biomarker levels were found only for the two pneumoproteins. Two discrete loci affecting CC16, one region near the CC16 coding gene (SCGB1A1) on chromosome 11 and another locus approximately 25 Mb away from SCGB1A1, were identified, whereas multiple SNPs on chromosomes 6 and 16, in addition to SNPs near SFTPD, had genome-wide significant associations with SP-D levels. Several SNPs affecting circulating CC16 levels were significantly associated with sputum mRNA expression of SCGB1A1 (P = 0.009–0.03). Several SNPs highly associated with CC16 or SP-D levels were nominally associated with COPD in a collaborative GWAS (P = 0.001–0.049), although these COPD associations were not replicated in two additional cohorts.
Conclusions: Distant genetic loci and biomarker-coding genes affect circulating levels of COPD-related pneumoproteins. A subset of these protein quantitative trait loci may influence their gene expression in the lung and/or COPD susceptibility.
Clinical trial registered with (NCT 00292552).
PMCID: PMC3622441  PMID: 23144326
biomarker; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; genome-wide association study
20.  Systemic Steroid Exposure Is Associated with Differential Methylation in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Rationale: Systemic glucocorticoids are used therapeutically to treat a variety of medical conditions. Epigenetic processes such as DNA methylation may reflect exposure to glucocorticoids and may be involved in mediating the responses and side effects associated with these medications.
Objectives: To test the hypothesis that differences in DNA methylation are associated with current systemic steroid use.
Methods: We obtained DNA methylation data at 27,578 CpG sites in 14,475 genes throughout the genome in two large, independent cohorts: the International COPD Genetics Network (ndiscovery = 1,085) and the Boston Early Onset COPD study (nreplication = 369). Sites were tested for association with current systemic steroid use using generalized linear mixed models.
Measurements and Main Results: A total of 511 sites demonstrated significant differential methylation by systemic corticosteroid use in all three of our primary models. Pyrosequencing validation confirmed robust differential methylation at CpG sites annotated to genes such as SLC22A18, LRP3, HIPK3, SCNN1A, FXYD1, IRF7, AZU1, SIT1, GPR97, ABHD16B, and RABGEF1. Functional annotation clustering demonstrated significant enrichment in intrinsic membrane components, hemostasis and coagulation, cellular ion homeostasis, leukocyte and lymphocyte activation and chemotaxis, protein transport, and responses to nutrients.
Conclusions: Our analyses suggest that systemic steroid use is associated with site-specific differential methylation throughout the genome. Differentially methylated CpG sites were found in biologically plausible and previously unsuspected pathways; these genes and pathways may be relevant in the development of novel targeted therapies.
PMCID: PMC3622442  PMID: 23065012
DNA methylation; glucocorticoids; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
21.  PGE2 Desensitizes β-Agonist Effect on Human Lung Fibroblast-Mediated Collagen Gel Contraction through Upregulating PDE4 
Mediators of Inflammation  2013;2013:145197.
In the current study, we investigated the effect of a long-acting β-agonist (salmeterol) and a phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) inhibitor (cilomilast) on human lung fibroblast-mediated collagen gel contraction. Higher concentrations of salmeterol (10−7 and 10−6 M) inhibited fibroblast-mediated collagen gel contraction. No effect was observed with cilomilast alone (up to 10−5 M). In the presence of 10−8 M salmeterol, however, cilomilast could significantly inhibit fibroblast-mediated collagen gel contraction in a concentration-dependent manner (10−7~10−5 M). Blockade of endogenous PGE2 by indomethacin further potentiated the inhibitory effect of salmeterol on fibroblast-mediated collagen gel contraction, but it did not affect cilomilast's effect. Pretreatment with PGE2 abolished the inhibitory effect of salmeterol, but it potentiated the inhibitory effect of cilomilast on fibroblast-mediated collagen gel contraction. Finally, indomethacin slightly inhibited PDE4C expression, while PGE2 stimulated the expression of PDE4A and -4C in human lung fibroblasts. These findings suggest that long-acting β-agonist and PDE4 inhibitor have a synergistic effect in regulating fibroblast tissue repair functions and that PGE2 can modulate the effect of β-agonist and PDE4 inhibitor at least in part through the mechanism of regulating PDE4 expression.
PMCID: PMC3817676  PMID: 24227907
22.  Anti-inflammatory effects of budesonide in human lung fibroblast are independent of histone deacetylase 2 
Objective and design
Reduced expression of histone deacetylase 2 (HDAC2) in alveolar macrophages and epithelial cells may account for reduced response of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients to glucocorticoids. HDAC2 expression and its role in mediating glucocorticoid effects on fibroblast functions, however, has not been fully studied. This study was designed to investigate whether HDAC2 mediates glucocorticoid effects on release of inflammatory cytokines and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) from human lung fibroblasts.
Human lung fibroblasts (HFL-1 cells) were stimulated with interleukin (IL)-1 β plus tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α in the presence or absence of the glucocorticoid budesonide. Cytokines (IL-6 and IL-8) were quantified by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and MMPs (MMP-1 and MMP-3) by immunoblotting in culture medium. The role of HDAC2 was investigated using a pharmacologic inhibitor as well as a small interfering ribonucleic acid (siRNA) targeting HDAC2.
We have demonstrated that budesonide concentration-dependently (10−10–10−7 M) inhibited IL-6, IL-8, MMP-1, and MMP-3 release by HFL-1 cells in response to IL-1β plus TNF-α. While an HDAC inhibitor significantly blocked the inhibitory effect of budesonide on human bronchial epithelial cells (HBECs) and monocytes (THP-1 cells), it did not block the inhibitory effect of budesonide on release of cytokines and MMPs from HFL-1 cells. Similarly, an HDAC2-siRNA blocked budesonide inhibition of cytokine release in HBECs, but it did not block the inhibitory effect of budesonide on HFL-1 cytokine and MMP release. Furthermore, budesonide significantly blocked release of cytokines and MMPs to a similar degree in normal and COPD lung fibroblasts as well as in HFL-1 cells exposed or not exposed to cigarette smoke extract.
These findings suggest that, in contrast to airway epithelial cells and monocytes/macrophages, HDAC2 is not required for budesonide to inhibit MMP and cytokine release by lung fibroblasts and this inhibitory pathway appears to be intact in cultured fibroblasts from COPD patients. These results also suggest that budesonide has the potential to modulate fibroblast-mediated tissue remodeling following airway inflammation in COPD, which is mediated via an HDAC2 independent pathway.
PMCID: PMC3780291  PMID: 24062615
budesonide; fibroblasts; HDAC2
23.  Cigarette smoking behaviors and time since quitting are associated with differential DNA methylation across the human genome 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(13):3073-3082.
The impact of cigarette smoking can persist for extended periods following smoking cessation and may involve epigenetic reprogramming. Changes in DNA methylation associated with smoking may help to identify molecular pathways that contribute to the latency between exposure and disease onset. Cross-sectional cohort data from subjects in the International COPD Genetics Network (n = 1085) and the Boston Early-Onset COPD study (n = 369) were analyzed as the discovery and replication cohorts, respectively. Genome-wide methylation data on 27 578 CpG sites in 14 475 genes were obtained on DNA from peripheral blood leukocytes using the Illumina HumanMethylation27K Beadchip in both cohorts. We identified 15 sites significantly associated with current smoking, 2 sites associated with cumulative smoke exposure, and, within the subset of former smokers, 3 sites associated with time since quitting cigarettes. Two loci, factor II receptor-like 3 (F2RL3) and G-protein-coupled receptor 15 (GPR15), were significantly associated in all three analyses and were validated by pyrosequencing. These findings (i) identify a novel locus (GPR15) associated with cigarette smoking and (ii) suggest the existence of dynamic, site-specific methylation changes in response to smoking which may contribute to the extended risks associated with cigarette smoking that persist after cessation.
PMCID: PMC3373248  PMID: 22492999
24.  Association of cigarette smoking and CRP levels with DNA methylation in α-1 antitrypsin deficiency 
Epigenetics  2012;7(7):720-728.
Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency and tobacco smoking are confirmed risk factors for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. We hypothesized that variable DNA methylation would be associated with smoking and inflammation, as reflected by the level of C-Reactive Protein (CRP) in AAT-deficient subjects. Methylation levels of 1,411 autosomal CpG sites from the Illumina GoldenGate Methylation Cancer Panel I were analyzed in 316 subjects. Associations of five smoking behaviors and CRP levels with individual CpG sites and average methylation levels were assessed using non-parametric testing, linear regression and linear mixed effect models, with and without adjustment for age and gender. Univariate linear regression analysis revealed that methylation levels of 16 CpG sites significantly associated with ever-smoking status. A CpG site in the TGFBI gene was the only site associated with ever-smoking after adjustment for age and gender. No highly significant associations existed between age at smoking initiation, pack-years smoked, duration of smoking, and time since quitting smoking as predictors of individual CpG site methylation levels. However, ever-smoking and younger age at smoking initiation associated with lower methylation level averaged across all sites. DNA methylation at CpG sites in the RUNX3, JAK3 and KRT1 genes associated with CRP levels. The most significantly associated CpG sites with gender and age mapped to the CASP6 and FZD9 genes, respectively. In summary, this study identified multiple potential candidate CpG sites associated with ever-smoking and CRP level in AAT-deficient subjects. Phenotypic variability in Mendelian diseases may be due to epigenetic factors.
PMCID: PMC3414392  PMID: 22617718
68kDa (TGFBI); C-Reactive Protein (CRP); Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD); Illumina GoldenGate Methylation Cancer Panel I; alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency; beta-induced; methylation; smoking behaviors; transforming growth factor
25.  Effect of budesonide on fibroblast-mediated collagen gel contraction and degradation 
The balance between production and degradation of extracellular matrix is crucial in maintaining normal tissue structure. This study was designed to investigate the effect of budesonide on fibroblast-mediated tissue repair and remodeling.
Using human fetal lung fibroblasts in a three-dimensional collagen gel culture system, we investigated the effect of budesonide (1-1000 nM) on collagen gel contraction and degradation in the presence or absence of Inflammatory cytokines (interleukin-1β and tumor necrosis factor α; 5 ng/mL each) and, in order to activate latent proteases, serine protease trypsin 0.25 μg/mL. The effects of budesonide on metalloproteinase production and activation were also investigated.
Inflammatory cytokines significantly inhibited collagen gel contraction mediated by lung fibroblasts. Budesonide counteracted the effect of cytokines in a concentration-dependent manner (to 50%, P< 0.01). Budesonide 100 nM almost completely inhibited the release and mRNA expression of metalloproteinase-1, metalloproteinase-3, and metalloproteinase-9 induced by the cytokines (P< 0.05). Exposure to the cytokines plus trypsin increased collagen degradation and conversion of the metalloproteinases to lower molecular weight forms corresponding to their active forms. Budesonide blocked both enhanced collagen degradation (P< 0.01) and suppressed trypsin-mediated conversion of cytokine-induced metalloproteinase-9 and metalloproteinase-3 to lower molecular weight forms. Similar effects were observed with dexamethasone 1 μM, suggesting a class effect.
These findings demonstrate that budesonide directly modulates contraction of collagen gels and can decrease collagen degradation under Inflammatory conditions. The mechanism of this effect is through suppressing gene expression, release, and activation of metalloproteinases. By modulating the release and activity of metalloproteinases, inhaled budesonide may be able to modify airway tissue repair and remodeling.
PMCID: PMC3617814  PMID: 23576875
metalloproteinase; budesonide; tissue remodeling

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