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1.  HLA-DQB1*02 and DQB1*06:03P are associated with peanut allergy 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2013;21(10):1181-1184.
Peanut allergy (PA) is a common and serious food allergy and its prevalence has increased in the past decade. Although there is strong evidence of inheritance, the genetic causes of this disease are not well understood. Previously, a large-scale genome-wide association study described an association between human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DQB1 and asthma; the aim of this study was to evaluate the association between HLA-DQB1 and PA. Genotypic and allelic profiles were established for 311 Caucasian members of a well-described Canadian group of children with PA and 226 Caucasian controls. Firth's logistic regression analyses showed associations between HLA-DQB1 alleles and PA for DQB1*02 (P=1.1 × 10−8, odds ratio (OR)=0.09 (CI=0.03–0.23)) and DQB1*06:03P alleles (P=2.1 × 10−2, OR=2.82 (CI=1.48–5.45)). This study of HLA in PA demonstrates specific association between two allelic groups of the HLA-DQB1 gene (DQB1*02 and DQB1*06:03P) and PA, highlighting its possible role in the development of this disease.
PMCID: PMC3778350  PMID: 23443026
HLA-DQB1; peanut allergy; Caucasian; association; food allergy
2.  Longer Telomere Length in COPD Patients with α1-Antitrypsin Deficiency Independent of Lung Function 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95600.
Oxidative stress is involved in the pathogenesis of airway obstruction in α1-antitrypsin deficient patients. This may result in a shortening of telomere length, resulting in cellular senescence. To test whether telomere length differs in α1-antitrypsin deficient patients compared with controls, we measured telomere length in DNA from peripheral blood cells of 217 α1-antitrypsin deficient patients and 217 control COPD patients. We also tested for differences in telomere length between DNA from blood and DNA from lung tissue in a subset of 51 controls. We found that telomere length in the blood was significantly longer in α1-antitrypsin deficient COPD patients compared with control COPD patients (p = 1×10−29). Telomere length was not related to lung function in α1-antitrypsin deficient patients (p = 0.3122) or in COPD controls (p = 0.1430). Although mean telomere length was significantly shorter in the blood when compared with the lungs (p = 0.0078), telomere length was correlated between the two tissue types (p = 0.0122). Our results indicate that telomere length is better preserved in α1-antitrypsin deficient COPD patients than in non-deficient patients. In addition, measurement of telomere length in the blood may be a suitable surrogate for measurement in the lung.
PMCID: PMC3998943  PMID: 24763308
3.  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
4.  Nitric oxide synthase polymorphisms, gene expression and lung function in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
Due to the pleiotropic effects of nitric oxide (NO) within the lungs, it is likely that NO is a significant factor in the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The aim of this study was to test for association between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in three NO synthase (NOS) genes and lung function, as well as to examine gene expression and protein levels in relation to the genetic variation.
One SNP in each NOS gene (neuronal NOS (NOS1), inducible NOS (NOS2), and endothelial NOS (NOS3)) was genotyped in the Lung Health Study (LHS) and correlated with lung function. One SNP (rs1800779) was also analyzed for association with COPD and lung function in four COPD case–control populations. Lung tissue expression of NOS3 mRNA and protein was tested in individuals of known genotype for rs1800779. Immunohistochemistry of lung tissue was used to localize NOS3 expression.
For the NOS3 rs1800779 SNP, the baseline forced expiratory volume in one second in the LHS was significantly higher in the combined AG + GG genotypic groups compared with the AA genotypic group. Gene expression and protein levels in lung tissue were significantly lower in subjects with the AG + GG genotypes than in AA subjects. NOS3 protein was expressed in the airway epithelium and subjects with the AA genotype demonstrated higher NOS3 expression compared with AG and GG individuals. However, we were not able to replicate the associations with COPD or lung function in the other COPD study groups.
Variants in the NOS genes were not associated with lung function or COPD status. However, the G allele of rs1800779 resulted in a decrease of NOS3 gene expression and protein levels and this has implications for the numerous disease states that have been associated with this polymorphism.
PMCID: PMC3827989  PMID: 24192154
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Nitric oxide synthase; Polymorphism; Gene expression
5.  Causal and Synthetic Associations of Variants in the SERPINA Gene Cluster with Alpha1-antitrypsin Serum Levels 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(8):e1003585.
Several infrequent genetic polymorphisms in the SERPINA1 gene are known to substantially reduce concentration of alpha1-antitrypsin (AAT) in the blood. Since low AAT serum levels fail to protect pulmonary tissue from enzymatic degradation, these polymorphisms also increase the risk for early onset chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The role of more common SERPINA1 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in respiratory health remains poorly understood.
We present here an agnostic investigation of genetic determinants of circulating AAT levels in a general population sample by performing a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 1392 individuals of the SAPALDIA cohort.
Five common SNPs, defined by showing minor allele frequencies (MAFs) >5%, reached genome-wide significance, all located in the SERPINA gene cluster at 14q32.13. The top-ranking genotyped SNP rs4905179 was associated with an estimated effect of β = −0.068 g/L per minor allele (P = 1.20*10−12). But denser SERPINA1 locus genotyping in 5569 participants with subsequent stepwise conditional analysis, as well as exon-sequencing in a subsample (N = 410), suggested that AAT serum level is causally determined at this locus by rare (MAF<1%) and low-frequent (MAF 1–5%) variants only, in particular by the well-documented protein inhibitor S and Z (PI S, PI Z) variants. Replication of the association of rs4905179 with AAT serum levels in the Copenhagen City Heart Study (N = 8273) was successful (P<0.0001), as was the replication of its synthetic nature (the effect disappeared after adjusting for PI S and Z, P = 0.57). Extending the analysis to lung function revealed a more complex situation. Only in individuals with severely compromised pulmonary health (N = 397), associations of common SNPs at this locus with lung function were driven by rarer PI S or Z variants. Overall, our meta-analysis of lung function in ever-smokers does not support a functional role of common SNPs in the SERPINA gene cluster in the general population.
Author Summary
Low levels of alpha1-antitrypsin (AAT) in the blood are a well-established risk factor for accelerated loss in lung function and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. While a few infrequent genetic polymorphisms are known to influence the serum levels of this enzyme, the role of common genetic variants has not been examined so far. The present genome-wide scan for associated variants in approximately 1400 Swiss inhabitants revealed a chromosomal locus containing the functionally established variants of AAT deficiency and variants previously associated with lung function and emphysema. We used dense genotyping of this genetic region in more than 5500 individuals and subsequent conditional analyses to unravel which of these associated variants contribute independently to the phenotype's variability. All associations of common variants could be attributed to the rarer functionally established variants, a result which was then replicated in an independent population-based Danish cohort. Hence, this locus represents a textbook example of how a large part of a trait's heritability can be hidden in infrequent genetic polymorphisms. The attempt to transfer these results to lung function furthermore suggests that effects of common variants in this genetic region in ever-smokers may also be explained by rarer variants, but only in individuals with hampered pulmonary health.
PMCID: PMC3749935  PMID: 23990791
8.  Lung eQTLs to Help Reveal the Molecular Underpinnings of Asthma 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(11):e1003029.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified loci reproducibly associated with pulmonary diseases; however, the molecular mechanism underlying these associations are largely unknown. The objectives of this study were to discover genetic variants affecting gene expression in human lung tissue, to refine susceptibility loci for asthma identified in GWAS studies, and to use the genetics of gene expression and network analyses to find key molecular drivers of asthma. We performed a genome-wide search for expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) in 1,111 human lung samples. The lung eQTL dataset was then used to inform asthma genetic studies reported in the literature. The top ranked lung eQTLs were integrated with the GWAS on asthma reported by the GABRIEL consortium to generate a Bayesian gene expression network for discovery of novel molecular pathways underpinning asthma. We detected 17,178 cis- and 593 trans- lung eQTLs, which can be used to explore the functional consequences of loci associated with lung diseases and traits. Some strong eQTLs are also asthma susceptibility loci. For example, rs3859192 on chr17q21 is robustly associated with the mRNA levels of GSDMA (P = 3.55×10−151). The genetic-gene expression network identified the SOCS3 pathway as one of the key drivers of asthma. The eQTLs and gene networks identified in this study are powerful tools for elucidating the causal mechanisms underlying pulmonary disease. This data resource offers much-needed support to pinpoint the causal genes and characterize the molecular function of gene variants associated with lung diseases.
Author Summary
Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified genetic variants associated with lung diseases. The challenge now is to find the causal genes in GWAS–nominated chromosomal regions and to characterize the molecular function of disease-associated genetic variants. In this paper, we describe an international effort to systematically capture the genetic architecture of gene expression regulation in human lung. By studying lung specimens from 1,111 individuals of European ancestry, we found a large number of genetic variants affecting gene expression in the lung, or lung expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL). These lung eQTLs will serve as an important resource to aid in the understanding of the molecular underpinnings of lung biology and its disruption in disease. To demonstrate the utility of this lung eQTL dataset, we integrated our data with previous genetic studies on asthma. Through integrative techniques, we identified causal variants and genes in GWAS–nominated loci and found key molecular drivers for asthma. We feel that sharing our lung eQTLs dataset with the scientific community will leverage the impact of previous large-scale GWAS on lung diseases and function by providing much needed functional information to understand the molecular changes introduced by the susceptibility genetic variants.
PMCID: PMC3510026  PMID: 23209423
9.  Selection of Suitable Housekeeping Genes for Real-Time Quantitative PCR in CD4+ Lymphocytes from Asthmatics with or without Depression 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e48367.
No optimal housekeeping genes (HKGs) have been identified for CD4+ T cells from non-depressive asthmatic and depressive asthmatic adults for normalizing quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) assays. The aim of present study was to select appropriate HKGs for gene expression analysis in purified CD4+ T cells from these asthmatics.
Three groups of subjects (Non-depressive asthmatic, NDA, n = 10, Depressive asthmatic, DA, n = 11, and Healthy control, HC, n = 10 respectively) were studied. qPCR for 9 potential HKGs, namely RNA, 28S ribosomal 1 (RN28S1), ribosomal protein, large, P0 (RPLP0), actin, beta (ACTB), cyclophilin A (PPIA), glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), phosphoglycerate kinase 1 (PGK1), beta-2-microglobulin (B2M), glucuronidase, beta (GUSB) and ribosomal protein L13a (RPL13A), was performed. Then the data were analyzed with three different applications namely BestKeeper, geNorm, and NormFinder.
The analysis of gene expression data identified B2M and RPLP0 as the most stable reference genes and showed that the level of PPIA was significantly different among subjects of three groups when the two best HKGs identified were applied. Post-hoc analysis by Student-Newman-Keuls correction shows that depressive asthmatics and non-depressive asthmatics exhibited lower expression level of PPIA than healthy controls (p<0.05).
B2M and RPLP0 were identified as the most optimal HKGs in gene expression studies involving human blood CD4+ T cells derived from normal, depressive asthmatics and non-depressive asthmatics. The suitability of using the PPIA gene as the HKG for such studies was questioned due to its low expression in asthmatics.
PMCID: PMC3480507  PMID: 23110234
10.  Functional characterization of the matrix metalloproteinase-1 cigarette smoke-responsive region and association with the lung health study 
Respiratory Research  2012;13(1):79.
Prior studies have demonstrated that the distal 1.5 kb of the MMP-1 promoter is fundamental in directing the induction of the MMP-1 gene by cigarette smoke.
To characterize the genetic variants in the MMP-1 cigarette smoke-responsive element, deep re-sequencing of this element was performed on DNA samples from participants in the Lung Health Study. Furthermore, evidence of Sp1 binding to the MMP-1 promoter was assessed using chromatin immunoprecipitation assays and the influence of cigarette smoke exposure on this interaction was evaluated in cultured human small airway epithelial cells.
Ten polymorphisms (four novel) were detected in the cigarette smoke-responsive element. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays to assess the protein-DNA interactions at Sp1 sites in the MMP-1 promoter showed increased binding to the Sp1 sites in the cigarette smoke-responsive element in small airway epithelial cells treated with cigarette smoke extract. In contrast, a Sp1 site outside of the element exhibited the opposite effect. None of the polymorphisms were more prevalent in the fast decliners versus the slow decliners (fast decliners = mean −4.14% decline in FEV1% predicted per year vs. decline in FEV1% predicted per year).
Sequencing analyses identified four novel polymorphisms within the cigarette smoke-responsive element of the MMP-1 promoter. This study identifies functional activity within the cigarette smoke-responsive element that is influenced by cigarette smoke and examines this region of the promoter within a small patient population.
PMCID: PMC3509005  PMID: 22992122
Chromatin immunoprecipitation; COPD; Metalloproteinase; Polymorphisms; Transcription factors
11.  A Novel Lung Disease Phenotype Adjusted for Mortality Attrition for Cystic Fibrosis Genetic Modifier Studies 
Pediatric pulmonology  2011;46(9):857-869.
Genetic studies of lung disease in Cystic Fibrosis are hampered by the lack of a severity measure that accounts for chronic disease progression and mortality attrition. Further, combining analyses across studies requires common phenotypes that are robust to study design and patient ascertainment.
Using data from the North American Cystic Fibrosis Modifier Consortium (Canadian Consortium for CF Genetic Studies, Johns Hopkins University CF Twin and Sibling Study, and University of North Carolina/Case Western Reserve University Gene Modifier Study), the authors calculated age-specific CF percentile values of FEV1 which were adjusted for CF age-specific mortality data.
The phenotype was computed for 2061 patients representing the Canadian CF population, 1137 extreme phenotype patients in the UNC/Case Western study, and 1323 patients from multiple CF sib families in the CF Twin and Sibling Study. Despite differences in ascertainment and median age, our phenotype score was distributed in all three samples in a manner consistent with ascertainment differences, reflecting the lung disease severity of each individual in the underlying population. The new phenotype score was highly correlated with the previously recommended complex phenotype, but the new phenotype is more robust for shorter follow-up and for extreme ages.
A disease progression and mortality adjusted phenotype reduces the need for stratification or additional covariates, increasing statistical power and avoiding possible distortions. This approach will facilitate large scale genetic and environmental epidemiological studies which will provide targeted therapeutic pathways for the clinical benefit of patients with CF.
PMCID: PMC3130075  PMID: 21462361
Forced Expiratory Volume; Age Effects; Severity of Illness Index
12.  The Relationship between Telomere Length and Mortality in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35567.
Some have suggested that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a disease of accelerated aging. Aging is characterized by shortening of telomeres. The relationship of telomere length to important clinical outcomes such as mortality, disease progression and cancer in COPD is unknown. Using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), we measured telomere length of peripheral leukocytes in 4,271 subjects with mild to moderate COPD who participated in the Lung Health Study (LHS). The subjects were followed for approximately 7.5 years during which time their vital status, FEV1 and smoking status were ascertained. Using multiple regression methods, we determined the relationship of telomere length to cancer and total mortality in these subjects. We also measured telomere length in healthy “mid-life” volunteers and patients with more severe COPD. The LHS subjects had significantly shorter telomeres than those of healthy “mid-life” volunteers (p<.001). Compared to individuals in the 4th quartile of relative telomere length (i.e. longest telomere group), the remaining participants had significantly higher risk of cancer mortality (Hazard ratio, HR, 1.48; p = 0.0324) and total mortality (HR, 1.29; p = 0.0425). Smoking status did not make a significant difference in peripheral blood cells telomere length. In conclusion, COPD patients have short leukocyte telomeres, which are in turn associated increased risk of total and cancer mortality. Accelerated aging is of particular relevance to cancer mortality in COPD.
PMCID: PMC3338848  PMID: 22558169
13.  Genome-wide association and linkage identify modifier loci of lung disease severity in cystic fibrosis at 11p13 and 20q13.2 
Nature Genetics  2011;43(6):539-546.
A combined genome-wide association and linkage study was used to identify loci causing variation in CF lung disease severity. A significant association (P=3. 34 × 10-8) near EHF and APIP (chr11p13) was identified in F508del homozygotes (n=1,978). The association replicated in F508del homozygotes (P=0.006) from a separate family-based study (n=557), with P=1.49 × 10-9 for the three-study joint meta-analysis. Linkage analysis of 486 sibling pairs from the family-based study identified a significant QTL on chromosome 20q13.2 (LOD=5.03). Our findings provide insight into the causes of variation in lung disease severity in CF and suggest new therapeutic targets for this life-limiting disorder.
PMCID: PMC3296486  PMID: 21602797
14.  Understanding the Population Structure of North American Patients with Cystic Fibrosis 
Clinical genetics  2011;79(2):136-146.
It is generally presumed that the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) population is relatively homogeneous, and predominantly of European origin. The complex ethnic make-up observed in the CF patients collected by the North American CF Modifier Gene Consortium has brought this assumption into question, and suggested the potential for population substructure in the three CF study samples collected from North America. It is well appreciated that population substructure can result in spurious genetic associations.
To understand the ethnic composition of the North American CF population, and to assess the need for population structure adjustment in genetic association studies with North American CF patients.
Genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphisms on 3076 unrelated North American CF patients were used to perform population structure analyses. We compared self-reported ethnicity to genotype-inferred ancestry, and also examined whether geographic distribution and CFTR mutation type could explain the structure observed.
Main Results
Although largely Caucasian, our analyses identified a considerable number of CF patients with admixed African-Caucasian, Mexican-Caucasian and Indian-Caucasian ancestries. Population substructure was present and comparable across the three studies of the consortium. Neither geographic distribution nor mutation type explained the population structure.
Given the ethnic diversity of the North American CF population, it is essential to carefully detect, estimate and adjust for population substructure to guard against potential spurious findings in CF genetic association studies. Other Mendelian diseases that are presumed to predominantly affect single ethnic groups may also benefit from careful analysis of population structure.
PMCID: PMC2995003  PMID: 20681990
ethnicity; principal component analysis; population substructure; population stratification
15.  Effect of heme oxygenase-1 polymorphisms on lung function and gene expression 
BMC Medical Genetics  2011;12:117.
Oxidative stress induced by smoking is considered to be important in the pathogenesis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Heme oxygenase-1 (HMOX1) is an essential enzyme in heme catabolism that is induced by oxidative stress and may play a protective role as an antioxidant in the lung. We determined whether HMOX1 polymorphisms were associated with lung function in COPD patients and whether the variants had functional effects.
We genotyped five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the HMOX1 gene in Caucasians who had the fastest (n = 278) and the slowest (n = 304) decline of FEV1 % predicted, selected from smokers in the NHLBI Lung Health Study. These SNPs were also studied in Caucasians with the lowest (n = 535) or the highest (n = 533) baseline lung function. Reporter genes were constructed containing three HMOX1 promoter polymorphisms and the effect of these polymorphisms on H2O2 and hemin-stimulated gene expression was determined. The effect of the HMOX1 rs2071749 SNP on gene expression in alveolar macrophages was investigated.
We found a nominal association (p = 0.015) between one intronic HMOX1 SNP (rs2071749) and lung function decline but this did not survive correction for multiple comparisons. This SNP was in perfect linkage disequilibrium with rs3761439, located in the promoter of HMOX1. We tested rs3761439 and two other putatively functional polymorphisms (rs2071746 and the (GT)n polymorphism) in reporter gene assays but no significant effects on gene expression were found. There was also no effect of rs2071749 on HMOX1 gene expression in alveolar macrophages.
We found no association of the five HMOX1 tag SNPs with lung function decline and no evidence that the three promoter polymorphisms affected the regulation of the HMOX1 gene.
PMCID: PMC3180266  PMID: 21902835
Heme oxygenase; polymorphism; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
16.  Genetics of Interleukin 1 Receptor-Like 1 in Immune and Inflammatory Diseases 
Current Genomics  2010;11(8):591-606.
Interleukin 1 receptor-like 1 (IL1RL1) is gaining in recognition due to its involvement in immune/inflammatory disorders. Well-designed animal studies have shown its critical role in experimental allergic inflammation and human in vitro studies have consistently demonstrated its up-regulation in several conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. The ligand for IL1RL1 is IL33 which emerged as playing an important role in initiating eosinophilic inflammation and activating other immune cells resulting in an allergic phenotype.
An IL1RL1 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) was among the most significant results of a genome-wide scan investigating eosinophil counts; in the same study, this SNP associated with asthma in 10 populations.
The IL1RL1 gene resides in a region of high linkage disequilibrium containing interleukin 1 receptor genes as well as interleukin 18 receptor and accessory genes. This poses a challenge to researchers interested in deciphering genetic association signals in the region as all of the genes represent interesting candidates for asthma and allergic disease.
The IL1RL1 gene and its resulting soluble and receptor proteins have emerged as key regulators of the inflammatory process implicated in a large variety of human pathologies We review the function and expression of the IL1RL1 gene. We also describe the role of IL1RL1 in asthma, allergy, cardiovascular disease, infections, liver disease and kidney disease.
PMCID: PMC3078684  PMID: 21629437
Asthma; genetics; IL1RL1; immunity; inflammation; respiratory; SNP.
17.  Effect of gene environment interactions on lung function and cardiovascular disease in COPD 
The objective of this study was to determine if gene-environment interactions between cigarette smoking and interleukin-6 (IL6), interferon-γ (IFNG), interleukin-1β (IL1B), or interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL1RN) single nucleotide polymorphisms are associated with lung function decline and cardiovascular disease in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in IL6, IFNG, IL1B, and IL1RN were genotyped in the Lung Health Study and correlated with rate of decline of forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) over 5 years, baseline FEV1, serum protein levels, cardiovascular disease, and interactions with smoking.
The IL6 rs2069825 single nucleotide polymorphism was associated with the rate of decline of prebronchodilator FEV1 (P = 0.049), and was found to have a significant interaction (P = 0.004) with mean number of cigarettes smoked per day. There was also a significant interaction of IFNG rs2069727 with smoking on prebronchodilator (P = 0.008) and postbronchodilator (P =0.01) FEV1. The IL6 polymorphism was also associated with cardiovascular disease in heterozygous individuals (P = 0.044), and was found to have a significant interaction with smoking (P = 0.024). None of the genetic variants were associated with their respective serum protein levels.
The results suggest interactions of IL6 rs2069825 and IFNG rs2069727 single nucleotide polymorphisms with cigarette smoking on measures of lung function. The IL6 rs2069825 single nucleotide polymorphism also interacted with smoking to affect the risk of cardiovascular disease in COPD patients.
PMCID: PMC3144847  PMID: 21814463
gene-environment interactions; interleukin-6; forced expiratory volume in one second; cardiovascular disease; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
18.  Modifier gene study of meconium ileus in cystic fibrosis: statistical considerations and gene mapping results 
Human genetics  2009;126(6):763-778.
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a monogenic disease due to mutations in the CFTR gene. Yet, variability in CF disease presentation is presumed to be affected by modifier genes, such as those recently demonstrated for the pulmonary aspect. Here, we conduct a modifier gene study for meconium ileus (MI), an intestinal obstruction that occurs in 16–20% of CF newborns, providing linkage and association results from large family and case–control samples. Linkage analysis of modifier traits is different than linkage analysis of primary traits on which a sample was ascertained. Here, we articulate a source of confounding unique to modifier gene studies and provide an example of how one might overcome the confounding in the context of linkage studies. Our linkage analysis provided evidence of a MI locus on chromosome 12p13.3, which was segregating in up to 80% of MI families with at least one affected offspring (HLOD = 2.9). Fine mapping of the 12p13.3 region in a large case–control sample of pancreatic insufficient Canadian CF patients with and without MI pointed to the involvement of ADIPOR2 in MI (p = 0.002). This marker was substantially out of Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium in the cases only, and provided evidence of a cohort effect. The association with rs9300298 in the ADIPOR2 gene at the 12p13.3 locus was replicated in an independent sample of CF families. A protective locus, using the phenotype of no-MI, mapped to 4q13.3 (HLOD = 3.19), with substantial heterogeneity. A candidate gene in the region, SLC4A4, provided preliminary evidence of association (p = 0.002), warranting further follow-up studies. Our linkage approach was used to direct our fine-mapping studies, which uncovered two potential modifier genes worthy of follow-up.
PMCID: PMC2888886  PMID: 19662435
Respiratory medicine  2009;103(11):1672-1680.
Latent adenoviral infection may amplify cigarette smoke-induced lung inflammation and therefore play an important role in the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Adenoviruses can evade the human immune response via their 19-kDa protein (19K) which delays the expression of class I human leukocyte antigen (HLA) proteins. The 19K protein shows higher affinity to HLA-B7 and A2 compared with HLA-A1 and A3. The receptor for adenovirus (CXADR) and integrin β5 (ITGB5) are host factors which might affect adenovirus infection. Therefore, we investigated the contribution of HLA, CXADR, and ITGB5 genetic variants to the presence of the E1A gene and to level of lung function.
Study subjects were assayed for HLA-B7, A1, A2 and A3 by PCR-based assays using allele-specific primers. Polymorphisms of the CXADR and ITGB5 genes were genotyped by PCR-based restriction fragment length polymorphism assays. Detection of adenoviral E1A gene was performed by a real-time PCR TaqMan assay.
E1A positive individuals have a lower FEV1 compared with E1A negative individuals. However, there was no significant difference in E1A positivity rate between the high (HLA-B7 and A2) and low (HLA-A1 and A3) 19K affinity groups. There was also no significant difference in FEV1 level between each affinity group. There was no significant difference in E1A positivity rate or lung function among the CXADR and ITGB5 genotypes.
Genetic variants in HLA, CXADR and ITGB5 do not influence latent adenoviral infections and are not associated with COPD.
PMCID: PMC2757510  PMID: 19502044
21.  Associations of IL6 polymorphisms with lung function decline and COPD 
Thorax  2009;64(8):698-704.
Interleukin-6 (IL6) is a pleiotropic pro-inflammatory and immunomodulatory cytokine which likely plays an important role in the pathogenesis of COPD. There is a functional single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), −174G/C, in the promoter region of IL6. We hypothesized that IL6 SNPs influence susceptibility for impaired lung function and COPD in smokers.
Seven and 5 SNPs in IL6 were genotyped in two nested case-control samples derived from the Lung Health Study (LHS) based on phenotypes of rate of decline of forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) over 5 years and baseline FEV1 at the beginning of the LHS. Serum IL6 concentrations were measured for all subjects. A partially overlapping panel of 9 IL6 SNPs was genotyped in 389 COPD cases from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT) and 420 controls from the Normative Aging Study (NAS).
In the LHS, three IL6 SNPs were associated with FEV1 decline (0.023 ≤ P ≤ 0.041 in additive models). Among them the IL6_−174C allele was associated with rapid decline of lung function. The association was more significant in a genotype-based analysis (P = 0.006). In the NETT-NAS study, IL6_−174G/C and four other IL6 SNPs, all of which are in linkage disequilibrium with IL6_−174G/C, were associated with susceptibility to COPD (0.01 ≤ P ≤ 0.04 in additive genetic models).
Our results suggest that the IL6_−174G/C SNP is associated with rapid decline of FEV1 and susceptibility to COPD in smokers.
PMCID: PMC2859187  PMID: 19359268
genetic polymorphism; IL6; forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1); lung function; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
22.  Asthma and genes encoding components of the vitamin D pathway 
Respiratory Research  2009;10(1):98.
Genetic variants at the vitamin D receptor (VDR) locus are associated with asthma and atopy. We hypothesized that polymorphisms in other genes of the vitamin D pathway are associated with asthma or atopy.
Eleven candidate genes were chosen for this study, five of which code for proteins in the vitamin D metabolism pathway (CYP27A1, CYP27B1, CYP2R1, CYP24A1, GC) and six that are known to be transcriptionally regulated by vitamin D (IL10, IL1RL1, CD28, CD86, IL8, SKIIP). For each gene, we selected a maximally informative set of common SNPs (tagSNPs) using the European-derived (CEU) HapMap dataset. A total of 87 SNPs were genotyped in a French-Canadian family sample ascertained through asthmatic probands (388 nuclear families, 1064 individuals) and evaluated using the Family Based Association Test (FBAT) program. We then sought to replicate the positive findings in four independent samples: two from Western Canada, one from Australia and one from the USA (CAMP).
A number of SNPs in the IL10, CYP24A1, CYP2R1, IL1RL1 and CD86 genes were modestly associated with asthma and atopy (p < 0.05). Two-gene models testing for both main effects and the interaction were then performed using conditional logistic regression. Two-gene models implicating functional variants in the IL10 and VDR genes as well as in the IL10 and IL1RL1 genes were associated with asthma (p < 0.0002). In the replicate samples, SNPs in the IL10 and CYP24A1 genes were again modestly associated with asthma and atopy (p < 0.05). However, the SNPs or the orientation of the risk alleles were different between populations. A two-gene model involving IL10 and VDR was replicated in CAMP, but not in the other populations.
A number of genes involved in the vitamin D pathway demonstrate modest levels of association with asthma and atopy. Multilocus models testing genes in the same pathway are potentially more effective to evaluate the risk of asthma, but the effects are not uniform across populations.
PMCID: PMC2779188  PMID: 19852851
23.  Decline in NRF2-regulated Antioxidants in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Lungs Due to Loss of Its Positive Regulator, DJ-1 
Rationale: Oxidative stress is a key contributor in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) pathogenesis caused by cigarette smoking. NRF2, a redox-sensitive transcription factor, dissociates from its inhibitor, KEAP1, to induce antioxidant expression that inhibits oxidative stress.
Objectives: To determine the link between severity of COPD, oxidative stress, and NRF2-dependent antioxidant levels in the peripheral lung tissue of patients with COPD.
Methods: We assessed the expression of NRF2, NRF2-dependent antioxidants, regulators of NRF2 activity, and oxidative damage in non-COPD (smokers and former smokers) and smoker COPD lungs (mild and advanced). Cigarette smoke–exposed human lung epithelial cells (Beas2B) and mice were used to understand the mechanisms.
Measurements and Main Results: When compared with non-COPD lungs, the COPD patient lungs showed (1) marked decline in NRF2-dependent antioxidants and glutathione levels, (2) increased oxidative stress markers, (3) significant decrease in NRF2 protein with no change in NRF2 mRNA levels, and (4) similar KEAP1 but significantly decreased DJ-1 levels (a protein that stabilizes NRF2 protein by impairing KEAP1-dependent proteasomal degradation of NRF2). Exposure of Bea2B cells to cigarette smoke caused oxidative modification and enhanced proteasomal degradation of DJ-1 protein. Disruption of DJ-1 in mouse lungs, mouse embryonic fibroblasts, and Beas2B cells lowered NRF2 protein stability and impaired antioxidant induction in response to cigarette smoke. Interestingly, targeting KEAP1 by siRNA or the small-molecule activator sulforaphane restored induction of NRF2-dependent antioxidants in DJ-1–disrupted cells in response to cigarette smoke.
Conclusions: NRF2-dependent antioxidants and DJ-1 expression was negatively associated with severity of COPD. Therapy directed toward enhancing NRF2-regulated antioxidants may be a novel strategy for attenuating the effects of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of COPD.
PMCID: PMC2542433  PMID: 18556627
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; NRF2; DJ-1; oxidative stress; antioxidants
24.  Lack of association of TIM3 polymorphisms and allergic phenotypes 
BMC Medical Genetics  2009;10:62.
T-cell immunoglobulin mucin-3 (TIM3) is a TH1-specific type 1 membrane protein that regulates TH1 proliferation and the development of immunological tolerance. TIM3 and its genetic variants have been suggested to play a role in regulating allergic diseases. Polymorphisms in the TIM3 promoter region have been reported to be associated with allergic phenotypes in several populations. The aims of this study were to examine whether genetic variation in the promoter region of TIM3 influenced transcription of the gene and risk for allergic phenotypes.
We performed 5' rapid amplification of cDNA ends and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. We screened for polymorphisms in the promoter region. Deletion analysis was used to localize the promoter region of TIM3. Genotyping was performed by TaqMan assays in three asthma/allergy population samples.
We found two regions with promoter activity in TIM3. One region was from -214 bp to +58 bp and the other from -1.6 kb to -914 bp relative to the transcription start site. None of the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) or haplotypes affected the transcriptional activity in reporter gene assays. No association between the SNPs and any phenotype was observed in the study cohorts.
Our findings indicate that SNPs and haplotypes in the TIM3 promoter region do not have a functional effect in vitro and are not associated with allergic diseases. These data suggest that polymorphisms in the TIM3 promoter region are unlikely to play an important role in susceptibility to allergic diseases.
PMCID: PMC2711936  PMID: 19566956
25.  Complex two-gene modulation of lung disease severity in children with cystic fibrosis 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2008;118(3):1040-1049.
Although cystic fibrosis (CF) is a monogenic disease, its clinical manifestations are influenced in a complex manner. Severity of lung disease, the main cause of mortality among CF patients, is likely modulated by several genes. The mannose-binding lectin 2 (MBL2) gene encodes an innate immune response protein and has been implicated as a pulmonary modifier in CF. However, reports have been conflicting, and interactions with other modifiers have not been investigated. We therefore evaluated the association of MBL2 with CF pulmonary phenotype in a cohort of 1,019 Canadian pediatric CF patients. MBL2 genotypes were combined into low-, intermediate-, and high-expression groups based on MBL2 levels in plasma. Analysis of age at first infection with Pseudomonas aeruginosa demonstrated that MBL2 deficiency was significantly associated with earlier onset of infection. This MBL2 effect was amplified in patients with high-producing genotypes of transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFB1). Similarly, MBL2 deficiency was associated with more rapid decline of pulmonary function, most significantly in those carrying the high-producing TGFB1 genotype. These findings provide evidence of gene-gene interaction in the pathogenesis of CF lung disease, whereby high TGF-β1 production enhances the modulatory effect of MBL2 on the age of first bacterial infection and the rate of decline of pulmonary function.
PMCID: PMC2248329  PMID: 18292811

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