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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  A genome-wide association study of COPD identifies a susceptibility locus on chromosome 19q13 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;21(4):947-957.
The genetic risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are still largely unknown. To date, genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of limited size have identified several novel risk loci for COPD at CHRNA3/CHRNA5/IREB2, HHIP and FAM13A; additional loci may be identified through larger studies. We performed a GWAS using a total of 3499 cases and 1922 control subjects from four cohorts: the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints (ECLIPSE); the Normative Aging Study (NAS) and National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT); Bergen, Norway (GenKOLS); and the COPDGene study. Genotyping was performed on Illumina platforms with additional markers imputed using 1000 Genomes data; results were summarized using fixed-effect meta-analysis. We identified a new genome-wide significant locus on chromosome 19q13 (rs7937, OR = 0.74, P = 2.9 × 10−9). Genotyping this single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and another nearby SNP in linkage disequilibrium (rs2604894) in 2859 subjects from the family-based International COPD Genetics Network study (ICGN) demonstrated supportive evidence for association for COPD (P = 0.28 and 0.11 for rs7937 and rs2604894), pre-bronchodilator FEV1 (P = 0.08 and 0.04) and severe (GOLD 3&4) COPD (P = 0.09 and 0.017). This region includes RAB4B, EGLN2, MIA and CYP2A6, and has previously been identified in association with cigarette smoking behavior.
PMCID: PMC3298111  PMID: 22080838
5.  Genome-wide association study of smoking behaviors in COPD patients 
Thorax  2011;66(10):894-902.
Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for COPD and COPD severity. Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified numerous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with the number of cigarettes smoked per day (CPD) and a Dopamine Beta-Hydroxylase (DBH) locus associated with smoking cessation in multiple populations.
To identify SNPs associated with lifetime average and current CPD, age at smoking initiation, and smoking cessation in COPD subjects.
GWAS were conducted in 4 independent cohorts encompassing 3,441 ever-smoking COPD subjects (GOLD stage II or higher). Untyped SNPs were imputed using HapMap (phase II) panel. Results from all cohorts were meta-analyzed.
Several SNPs near the HLA region on chromosome 6p21 and in an intergenic region on chromosome 2q21 showed associations with age at smoking initiation, both with the lowest p=2×10−7. No SNPs were associated with lifetime average CPD, current CPD or smoking cessation with p<10−6. Nominally significant associations with candidate SNPs within alpha-nicotinic acetylcholine receptors 3/5 (CHRNA3/CHRNA5; e.g. p=0.00011 for SNP rs1051730) and Cytochrome P450 2A6 (CYP2A6; e.g. p=2.78×10−5 for a nonsynonymous SNP rs1801272) regions were observed for lifetime average CPD, however only CYP2A6 showed evidence of significant association with current CPD. A candidate SNP (rs3025343) in the DBH was significantly (p=0.015) associated with smoking cessation.
We identified two candidate regions associated with age at smoking initiation in COPD subjects. Associations of CHRNA3/CHRNA5 and CYP2A6 loci with CPD and DBH with smoking cessation are also likely of importance in the smoking behaviors of COPD patients.
PMCID: PMC3302576  PMID: 21685187
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD); Genome Wide Association study (GWAS); smoking behaviors; Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP)
6.  Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Variants Are Related to Smoking Habits, but Not Directly to COPD 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33386.
Genome-wide association studies identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) cluster as a risk factor for nicotine dependency and COPD. We investigated whether SNPs in the nAChR cluster are associated with smoking habits and lung function decline, and if these potential associations are independent of each other. The SNPs rs569207, rs1051730 and rs8034191 in the nAChR cluster were analyzed in the Vlagtwedde-Vlaardingen cohort (n = 1,390) that was followed for 25 years. We used GEE and LME models to analyze the associations of the SNPs with quitting or restarting smoking and with the annual FEV1 decline respectively. Individuals homozygote (CC) for rs569207 were more likely to quit smoking (OR (95%CI) = 1.58 (1.05–2.38)) compared to wild-type (TT) individuals. Individuals homozygote (TT) for rs1051730 were less likely to quit smoking (0.64 (0.42; 0.97)) compared to wild-type (CC) individuals. None of the SNPs was significantly associated with the annual FEV1 decline in smokers and ex-smokers. We show that SNPs in the nAChR region are associated with smoking habits such as quitting smoking, but have no significant effect on the annual FEV1 decline in smokers and ex-smokers, suggesting a potential role of these SNPs in COPD development via smoking habits rather than via direct effects on lung function.
PMCID: PMC3305325  PMID: 22438921
7.  Multidrug resistance-associated protein-1 (MRP1) genetic variants, MRP1 protein levels and severity of COPD 
Respiratory Research  2010;11(1):60.
Multidrug resistance-associated protein-1 (MRP1) protects against oxidative stress and toxic compounds generated by cigarette smoking, which is the main risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We have previously shown that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in MRP1 significantly associate with level of FEV1 in two independent population based cohorts. The aim of our study was to assess the associations of MRP1 SNPs with FEV1 level, MRP1 protein levels and inflammatory markers in bronchial biopsies and sputum of COPD patients.
Five SNPs (rs212093, rs4148382, rs504348, rs4781699, rs35621) in MRP1 were genotyped in 110 COPD patients. The effects of MRP1 SNPs were analyzed using linear regression models.
One SNP, rs212093 was significantly associated with a higher FEV1 level and less airway wall inflammation. Another SNP, rs4148382 was significantly associated with a lower FEV1 level, higher number of inflammatory cells in induced sputum and with a higher MRP1 protein level in bronchial biopsies.
This is the first study linking MRP1 SNPs with lung function and inflammatory markers in COPD patients, suggesting a role of MRP1 SNPs in the severity of COPD in addition to their association with MRP1 protein level in bronchial biopsies.
PMCID: PMC2882908  PMID: 20487524
8.  Level and course of FEV1 in relation to polymorphisms in NFE2L2 and KEAP1 in the general population 
Respiratory Research  2009;10(1):73.
The metabolism of xenobiotics plays an essential role in smoking related lung function loss and development of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Nuclear Factor Erythroid 2-Like 2 (NFE2L2 or NRF2) and its cytosolic repressor Kelch-like ECH-associated protein-1 (KEAP1) regulate transcription of enzymes involved in cellular detoxification processes and Nfe2l2-deficient mice develop tobacco-induced emphysema. We assessed the impact of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in both genes on the level and longitudinal course of Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second (FEV1) in the general population.
Five NFE2L2 and three KEAP1 tagging SNPs were genotyped in the population-based Doetinchem cohort (n = 1,152) and the independent Vlagtwedde-Vlaardingen cohort (n = 1,390). On average 3 FEV1 measurements during 3 surveys, respectively 7 FEV1 measurements during 8 surveys were present. Linear Mixed Effect models were used to test cross-sectional and longitudinal genetic effects on repeated FEV1 measurements.
In the Vlagtwedde-Vlaardingen cohort SNP rs11085735 in KEAP1 was associated with a higher FEV1 level (p = 0.02 for an additive effect), and SNP rs2364723 in NFE2L2 was associated with a lower FEV1 level (p = 0.06). The associations were even more significant in the pooled cohort analysis. No significant association of KEAP1 or NFE2L2 SNPs with FEV1 decline was observed.
This is the first genetic study on variations in key antioxidant transcriptional regulators KEAP1 and NFE2L2 and lung function in a general population. It identified 2 SNPs in NFE2L2 and KEAP1 which affect the level of FEV1 in the general population. It additionally shows that NFE2L2 and KEAP1 variations are unlikely to play a role in the longitudinal course of FEV1 in the general population.
PMCID: PMC2738671  PMID: 19671143

Results 1-8 (8)