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1.  Genome-Wide Association Study of Short-Acting β2-Agonists. A Novel Genome-Wide Significant Locus on Chromosome 2 near ASB3 
Rationale: β2-Agonists are the most common form of treatment of asthma, but there is significant variability in response to these medications. A significant proportion of this responsiveness may be heritable.
Objectives: To investigate whether a genome-wide association study (GWAS) could identify novel pharmacogenetic loci in asthma.
Methods: We performed a GWAS of acute bronchodilator response (BDR) to inhaled β2-agonists. A total of 444,088 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were examined in 724 individuals from the SNP Health Association Resource (SHARe) Asthma Resource Project (SHARP). The top 50 SNPs were carried forward to replication in a population of 444 individuals.
Measurements and Main Results: The combined P value for four SNPs reached statistical genome-wide significance aftercorrecting for multiple comparisons. Combined P values for rs350729, rs1840321, rs1384918, and rs1319797 were 2.21 × 10−10, 5.75 × 10−8, 9.3 × 10−8, and 3.95 × 10−8, respectively. The significant variants all map to a novel genetic region on chromosome 2 near the ASB3 gene, a region associated with smooth muscle proliferation. As compared with the wild type, the presence of the minor alleles reduced the degree of BDR by 20% in the original population and by a similar percentage in the confirmatory population.
Conclusions: These GWAS findings for BDR in subjects with asthma suggest that a gene associated with smooth muscle proliferation may influence a proportion of the smooth muscle relaxation that occurs in asthma.
PMCID: PMC4384768  PMID: 25562107
single-nucleotide polymorphism; genotype; bronchodilator
2.  Pharmacogenomics: novel loci identification via integrating gene differential analysis and eQTL analysis 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;23(18):5017-5024.
Nearly one-half of asthmatic patients do not respond to the most commonly prescribed controller therapy, inhaled corticosteroids (ICS). We conducted an expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analysis using >300 expression microarrays (from 117 lymphoblastoid cell lines) in corticosteroid (dexamethasone) treated and untreated cells derived from asthmatic subjects in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) clinical trial. We then tested the associations of eQTL with longitudinal change in airway responsiveness to methacholine (LnPC20) on ICS. We identified 2484 cis-eQTL affecting 767 genes following dexamethasone treatment. A significant over-representation of lnPC20-associated cis-eQTL [190 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)] among differentially expressed genes (odds ratio = 1.76, 95% confidence interval: 1.35–2.29) was noted in CAMP Caucasians. Forty-six of these 190 clinical associations were replicated in CAMP African Americans, including seven SNPs near six genes meeting criteria for genome-wide significance (P < 2 × 10−7). Notably, the majority of genome-wide findings would not have been uncovered via analysis of untreated samples. These results indicate that identifying eQTL after relevant environmental perturbation enables identification of true pharmacogenetic variants.
PMCID: PMC4140460  PMID: 24770851
3.  Vitamin D Modulates Expression of the Airway Smooth Muscle Transcriptome in Fatal Asthma 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0134057.
Globally, asthma is a chronic inflammatory respiratory disease affecting over 300 million people. Some asthma patients remain poorly controlled by conventional therapies and experience more life-threatening exacerbations. Vitamin D, as an adjunct therapy, may improve disease control in severe asthma patients since vitamin D enhances glucocorticoid responsiveness and mitigates airway smooth muscle (ASM) hyperplasia. We sought to characterize differences in transcriptome responsiveness to vitamin D between fatal asthma- and non-asthma-derived ASM by using RNA-Seq to measure ASM transcript expression in five donors with fatal asthma and ten non-asthma-derived donors at baseline and with vitamin D treatment. Based on a Benjamini-Hochberg corrected p-value <0.05, 838 genes were differentially expressed in fatal asthma vs. non-asthma-derived ASM at baseline, and vitamin D treatment compared to baseline conditions induced differential expression of 711 and 867 genes in fatal asthma- and non-asthma-derived ASM, respectively. Functional gene categories that were highly represented in all groups included extracellular matrix, and responses to steroid hormone stimuli and wounding. Genes differentially expressed by vitamin D also included cytokine and chemokine activity categories. Follow-up qPCR and individual analyte ELISA experiments were conducted for four cytokines (i.e. CCL2, CCL13, CXCL12, IL8) to measure TNFα-induced changes by asthma status and vitamin D treatment. Vitamin D inhibited TNFα-induced IL8 protein secretion levels to a comparable degree in fatal asthma- and non-asthma-derived ASM even though IL8 had significantly higher baseline levels in fatal asthma-derived ASM. Our findings identify vitamin D-specific gene targets and provide transcriptomic data to explore differences in the ASM of fatal asthma- and non-asthma-derived donors.
PMCID: PMC4514847  PMID: 26207385
4.  A genome-wide association study of bronchodilator response in asthmatics 
The pharmacogenomics journal  2013;14(1):41-47.
Reversibility of airway obstruction in response to β2-agonists is highly variable among asthmatics, which is partially attributed to genetic factors. In a genome-wide association study of acute bronchodilator response (BDR) to inhaled albuterol, 534,290 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were tested in 403 white trios from the Childhood Asthma Management Program using five statistical models to determine the most robust genetic associations. The primary replication phase included 1397 polymorphisms in three asthma trials (pooled n=764). The second replication phase tested 13 SNPs in three additional asthma populations (n=241, n=215, and n=592). An intergenic SNP on chromosome 10, rs11252394, proximal to several excellent biological candidates, significantly replicated (p=1.98×10−7) in the primary replication trials. An intronic SNP (rs6988229) in the collagen (COL22A1) locus also provided strong replication signals (p=8.51×10−6). This study applied a robust approach for testing the genetic basis of BDR and identified novel loci associated with this drug response in asthmatics.
PMCID: PMC3706515  PMID: 23508266
pharmacogenetics; asthma; bronchodilator response; genome-wide association study; albuterol
5.  RNA-Seq Transcriptome Profiling Identifies CRISPLD2 as a Glucocorticoid Responsive Gene that Modulates Cytokine Function in Airway Smooth Muscle Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99625.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory respiratory disease that affects over 300 million people worldwide. Glucocorticoids are a mainstay therapy for asthma because they exert anti-inflammatory effects in multiple lung tissues, including the airway smooth muscle (ASM). However, the mechanism by which glucocorticoids suppress inflammation in ASM remains poorly understood. Using RNA-Seq, a high-throughput sequencing method, we characterized transcriptomic changes in four primary human ASM cell lines that were treated with dexamethasone—a potent synthetic glucocorticoid (1 µM for 18 hours). Based on a Benjamini-Hochberg corrected p-value <0.05, we identified 316 differentially expressed genes, including both well known (DUSP1, KLF15, PER1, TSC22D3) and less investigated (C7, CCDC69, CRISPLD2) glucocorticoid-responsive genes. CRISPLD2, which encodes a secreted protein previously implicated in lung development and endotoxin regulation, was found to have SNPs that were moderately associated with inhaled corticosteroid resistance and bronchodilator response among asthma patients in two previously conducted genome-wide association studies. Quantitative RT-PCR and Western blotting showed that dexamethasone treatment significantly increased CRISPLD2 mRNA and protein expression in ASM cells. CRISPLD2 expression was also induced by the inflammatory cytokine IL1β, and small interfering RNA-mediated knockdown of CRISPLD2 further increased IL1β-induced expression of IL6 and IL8. Our findings offer a comprehensive view of the effect of a glucocorticoid on the ASM transcriptome and identify CRISPLD2 as an asthma pharmacogenetics candidate gene that regulates anti-inflammatory effects of glucocorticoids in the ASM.
PMCID: PMC4057123  PMID: 24926665
6.  Vitamin D related genes in lung development and asthma pathogenesis 
BMC Medical Genomics  2013;6:47.
Poor maternal vitamin D intake is a risk factor for subsequent childhood asthma, suggesting that in utero changes related to vitamin D responsive genes might play a crucial role in later disease susceptibility. We hypothesized that vitamin D pathway genes are developmentally active in the fetal lung and that these developmental genes would be associated with asthma susceptibility and regulation in asthma.
Vitamin D pathway genes were derived from PubMed and Gene Ontology surveys. Principal component analysis was used to identify characteristic lung development genes.
Vitamin D regulated genes were markedly over-represented in normal human (odds ratio OR 2.15, 95% confidence interval CI: 1.69-2.74) and mouse (OR 2.68, 95% CI: 2.12-3.39) developing lung transcriptomes. 38 vitamin D pathway genes were in both developing lung transcriptomes with >63% of genes more highly expressed in the later than earlier stages of development. In immortalized B-cells derived from 95 asthmatics and their unaffected siblings, 12 of the 38 (31.6%) vitamin D pathway lung development genes were significantly differentially expressed (OR 3.00, 95% CI: 1.43-6.21), whereas 11 (29%) genes were significantly differentially expressed in 43 control versus vitamin D treated immortalized B-cells from Childhood Asthma Management Program subjects (OR 2.62, 95% CI: 1.22-5.50). 4 genes, LAMP3, PIP5K1B, SCARB2 and TXNIP were identified in both groups; each displays significant biologic plausibility for a role in asthma.
Our findings demonstrate a significant association between early lung development and asthma–related phenotypes for vitamin D pathway genes, supporting a genomic mechanistic basis for the epidemiologic observations relating maternal vitamin D intake and childhood asthma susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC4228235  PMID: 24188128
Vitamin D; Cholecalciferol; Lung development; Asthma; Fetal programming
7.  A polymorphism in the thyroid hormone receptor gene is associated with bronchodilator response in asthmatics 
The pharmacogenomics journal  2012;13(2):130-136.
A pro-asthmatic culture milieu and β2-agonist (isoproterenol) were previously shown to regulate the expression of select transcription factors (TFs) within human airway epithelial and smooth muscle cells. This study tests 1116 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across 98 of these TF genes for association with bronchodilator response (BDR) in asthma patients. Genotyping was conducted using the Illumina HumanHap550v3 Beadchip in 403 non-Hispanic White asthmatic children and their parents. SNPs were evaluated for association with BDR using family and population-based analyses. Forty-two SNPs providing p values < 0.1 in both analyses were then genotyped in three adult asthma trials. One SNP 5’ of the thyroid hormone receptor beta gene was associated with BDR in the childhood population and two adult populations (p value = 0.0012). This investigation identified a novel locus for inter-individual variability in BDR and represents a translation of a cellular drug-response study to potential personalization of clinical asthma management.
PMCID: PMC3349771  PMID: 22212731
Bronchodilator response; transcription factor; association; thyroid hormone receptor β; asthma; pharmacogenetics
8.  ITGB5 and AGFG1 variants are associated with severity of airway responsiveness 
BMC Medical Genetics  2013;14:86.
Airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), a primary characteristic of asthma, involves increased airway smooth muscle contractility in response to certain exposures. We sought to determine whether common genetic variants were associated with AHR severity.
A genome-wide association study (GWAS) of AHR, quantified as the natural log of the dosage of methacholine causing a 20% drop in FEV1, was performed with 994 non-Hispanic white asthmatic subjects from three drug clinical trials: CAMP, CARE, and ACRN. Genotyping was performed on Affymetrix 6.0 arrays, and imputed data based on HapMap Phase 2, was used to measure the association of SNPs with AHR using a linear regression model. Replication of primary findings was attempted in 650 white subjects from DAG, and 3,354 white subjects from LHS. Evidence that the top SNPs were eQTL of their respective genes was sought using expression data available for 419 white CAMP subjects.
The top primary GWAS associations were in rs848788 (P-value 7.2E-07) and rs6731443 (P-value 2.5E-06), located within the ITGB5 and AGFG1 genes, respectively. The AGFG1 result replicated at a nominally significant level in one independent population (LHS P-value 0.012), and the SNP had a nominally significant unadjusted P-value (0.0067) for being an eQTL of AGFG1.
Based on current knowledge of ITGB5 and AGFG1, our results suggest that variants within these genes may be involved in modulating AHR. Future functional studies are required to confirm that our associations represent true biologically significant findings.
PMCID: PMC3765944  PMID: 23984888
Asthma; Airway hyperresponsiveness; Genome-wide association study; ITGB5; AGFG1
9.  The Impact of Self-Identified Race on Epidemiologic Studies of Gene Expression 
Genetic epidemiology  2011;35(2):93-101.
Although population differences in gene expression have been established, the impact on differential gene expression studies in large populations is not well understood. We describe the effect of self-reported race on a gene expression study of lung function in asthma. We generated gene expression profiles for 254 young adults (205 non-Hispanic whites and 49 African Americans) with asthma on whom concurrent total RNA derived from peripheral blood CD4+ lymphocytes and lung function measurements were obtained. We identified four principal components that explained 62% of the variance in gene expression. The dominant principal component, which explained 29% of the total variance in gene expression, was strongly associated with self-identified race (P<10−16). The impact of these racial differences was observed when we performed differential gene expression analysis of lung function. Using multivariate linear models, we tested whether gene expression was associated with a quantitative measure of lung function: pre-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1). Though unadjusted linear models of FEV1 identified several genes strongly correlated with lung function, these correlations were due to racial differences in the distribution of both FEV1 and gene expression, and were no longer statistically significant following adjustment for self-identified race. These results suggest that self-identified race is a critical confounding covariate in epidemiologic studies of gene expression and that, similar to genetic studies, careful consideration of self-identified race in gene expression profiling studies is needed to avoid spurious association.
PMCID: PMC3718033  PMID: 21254216
ancestry; gene expression; population stratification; self-identified race
10.  IL1B Polymorphisms Modulate Cystic Fibrosis Lung Disease 
Pediatric pulmonology  2009;44(6):580-593.
Rationale: Variability in pulmonary disease severity is found in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) who have identical mutations in the CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene. We hypothesized that one factor accounting for heterogeneity in pulmonary disease severity is variation in the family of genes affecting the biology of interleukin-1 (IL-1), which impacts acquisition and maintenance of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection in animal models of chronic infection. Methods: We genotyped 58 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the IL-1 gene cluster in 808 CF subjects from the University of North Carolina and Case Western Reserve University (UNC/CWRU) joint cohort. All were homozygous for ΔF508, and categories of “severe” (cases) or “mild” (control subjects) lung disease were defined by the lowest or highest quartile of forced expired volume (FEV1) for age in the CF population. After adjustment for age and gender, genotypic data were tested for association with lung disease severity. Odds ratios (ORs) comparing severe versus mild CF were also calculated for each genotype (with the homozygote major allele as the reference group) for all 58 SNPs. From these analyses, nine SNPs with a moderate effect size, OR ≤ 0.5or > 1.5, were selected for further testing. To replicate the case-control study results, we genotyped the same nine SNPs in a second population of CF parent-offspring trios (recruited from Children’s Hospital Boston), in which the offspring had similar pulmonary phenotypes. For the trio analysis, both family-based and population-based associations were performed. Results: SNPs rs1143634 and rs1143639 in the IL1B gene demonstrated a consistent association with lung disease severity categories (P < 0.10) and longitudinal analysis of lung disease severity (P < 0.10) in CF in both the case-control and family-based studies. In females, there was a consistent association (false discovery rate adjusted joint P-value < 0.06 for both SNPs) in both the analysis of lung disease severity in the UNC/CWRU cohort and the family-based analysis of affection status. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that IL1β is a clinically relevant modulator of CF lung disease.
PMCID: PMC3716579  PMID: 19431193
gene modifiers; cystic fibrosis; CFTR; IL-1 gene family
11.  Genomewide association study of the age of onset of childhood asthma 
Childhood asthma is a complex disease with known heritability and phenotypic diversity. Although an earlier onset has been associated with more severe disease, there has been no genome-wide association study of the age of onset of asthma in children.
To identify genetic variants associated with earlier onset of childhood asthma.
We conducted the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) of the age of onset of childhood asthma among participants in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP), and used three independent cohorts from North America, Costa Rica, and Sweden for replication.
Two SNPs were associated with earlier onset of asthma in the combined analysis of CAMP and the replication cohorts: : rs9815663 (Fisher’s P value=2.31 × 10−8) and rs7927044 (P=6.54 × 10−9). Of these two SNPs, rs9815663 was also significantly associated with earlier asthma onset in an analysis including only the replication cohorts. Ten SNPs in linkage disequilibrium with rs9815663 were also associated with earlier asthma onset (2.24 × 10−7 < P < 8.22 ×10−6). Having ≥1 risk allele of the two SNPs of interest (rs9815663 and rs7927044) was associated with lower lung function and higher asthma medication use during 4 years of follow-up in CAMP.
We have identified two SNPs associated with earlier onset of childhood asthma in four independent cohorts.
PMCID: PMC3387331  PMID: 22560479
Asthma; pediatrics; age of onset; asthma genetics; C1orf100; genome-wide association study; pediatric asthma
12.  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
13.  Genome-wide Association Identifies the T Gene as a Novel Asthma Pharmacogenetic Locus 
Rationale: To date, most studies aimed at discovering genetic factors influencing treatment response in asthma have focused on biologic candidate genes. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) can rapidly identify novel pharmacogenetic loci.
Objectives: To investigate if GWAS can identify novel pharmacogenetic loci in asthma.
Methods: Using phenotypic and GWAS genotype data available through the NHLBI-funded Single-nucleotide polymorphism Health association-Asthma Resource Project, we analyzed differences in FEV1 in response to inhaled corticosteroids in 418 white subjects with asthma. Of the 444,088 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) analyzed, the lowest 50 SNPs by P value were genotyped in an independent clinical trial population of 407 subjects with asthma.
Measurements and Main Results: The lowest P value for the GWAS analysis was 2.09 × 10−6. Of the 47 SNPs successfully genotyped in the replication population, three were associated under the same genetic model in the same direction, including two of the top four SNPs ranked by P value. Combined P values for these SNPs were 1.06 × 10−5 for rs3127412 and 6.13 × 10−6 for rs6456042. Although these two were not located within a gene, they were tightly correlated with three variants mapping to potentially functional regions within the T gene. After genotyping, each T gene variant was also associated with lung function response to inhaled corticosteroids in each of the trials associated with rs3127412 and rs6456042 in the initial GWAS analysis. On average, there was a twofold to threefold difference in FEV1 response for those subjects homozygous for the wild-type versus mutant alleles for each T gene SNP.
Conclusions: Genome-wide association has identified the T gene as a novel pharmacogenetic locus for inhaled corticosteroid response in asthma.
PMCID: PMC3381232  PMID: 22538805
polymorphism; genome; pharmacogenomics; glucocorticoid
14.  Genomewide Association between GLCCI1 and Response to Glucocorticoid Therapy in Asthma 
The New England journal of medicine  2011;365(13):1173-1183.
The response to treatment for asthma is characterized by wide interindividual variability, with a significant number of patients who have no response. We hypothesized that a genomewide association study would reveal novel pharmacogenetic determinants of the response to inhaled glucocorticoids.
We analyzed a small number of statistically powerful variants selected on the basis of a family-based screening algorithm from among 534,290 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to determine changes in lung function in response to inhaled glucocorticoids. A significant, replicated association was found, and we characterized its functional effects.
We identified a significant pharmacogenetic association at SNP rs37972, replicated in four independent populations totaling 935 persons (P = 0.0007), which maps to the glucocorticoid-induced transcript 1 gene (GLCCI1) and is in complete linkage disequilibrium (i.e., perfectly correlated) with rs37973. Both rs37972 and rs37973 are associated with decrements in GLCCI1 expression. In isolated cell systems, the rs37973 variant is associated with significantly decreased luciferase reporter activity. Pooled data from treatment trials indicate reduced lung function in response to inhaled glucocorticoids in subjects with the variant allele (P = 0.0007 for pooled data). Overall, the mean (± SE) increase in forced expiratory volume in 1 second in the treated subjects who were homozygous for the mutant rs37973 allele was only about one third of that seen in similarly treated subjects who were homozygous for the wild-type allele (3.2 ± 1.6% vs. 9.4 ± 1.1%), and their risk of a poor response was significantly higher (odds ratio, 2.36; 95% confidence interval, 1.27 to 4.41), with genotype accounting for about 6.6% of overall inhaled glucocorticoid response variability.
A functional GLCCI1 variant is associated with substantial decrements in the response to inhaled glucocorticoids in patients with asthma. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others; number, NCT00000575.)
PMCID: PMC3667396  PMID: 21991891
15.  Identification of a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease genetic determinant that regulates HHIP 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;21(6):1325-1335.
Multiple intergenic single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) near hedgehog interacting protein (HHIP) on chromosome 4q31 have been strongly associated with pulmonary function levels and moderate-to-severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, whether the effects of variants in this region are related to HHIP or another gene has not been proven. We confirmed genetic association of SNPs in the 4q31 COPD genome-wide association study (GWAS) region in a Polish cohort containing severe COPD cases and healthy smoking controls (P = 0.001 to 0.002). We found that HHIP expression at both mRNA and protein levels is reduced in COPD lung tissues. We identified a genomic region located ∼85 kb upstream of HHIP which contains a subset of associated SNPs, interacts with the HHIP promoter through a chromatin loop and functions as an HHIP enhancer. The COPD risk haplotype of two SNPs within this enhancer region (rs6537296A and rs1542725C) was associated with statistically significant reductions in HHIP promoter activity. Moreover, rs1542725 demonstrates differential binding to the transcription factor Sp3; the COPD-associated allele exhibits increased Sp3 binding, which is consistent with Sp3's usual function as a transcriptional repressor. Thus, increased Sp3 binding at a functional SNP within the chromosome 4q31 COPD GWAS locus leads to reduced HHIP expression and increased susceptibility to COPD through distal transcriptional regulation. Together, our findings reveal one mechanism through which SNPs upstream of the HHIP gene modulate the expression of HHIP and functionally implicate reduced HHIP gene expression in the pathogenesis of COPD.
PMCID: PMC3284120  PMID: 22140090
16.  Variable DNA Methylation Is Associated with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Lung Function 
Rationale: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with local (lung) and systemic (blood) inflammation and manifestations. DNA methylation is an important regulator of gene transcription, and global and specific gene methylation marks may vary with cigarette smoke exposure.
Objectives: To perform a comprehensive assessment of methylation marks in DNA from subjects well phenotyped for nonneoplastic lung disease.
Methods: We conducted array-based methylation screens, using a test-replication approach, in two family-based cohorts (n = 1,085 and 369 subjects).
Measurements and Main Results: We observed 349 CpG sites significantly associated with the presence and severity of COPD in both cohorts. Seventy percent of the associated CpG sites were outside of CpG islands, with the majority of CpG sites relatively hypomethylated. Gene ontology analysis based on these 349 CpGs (330 genes) suggested the involvement of a number of genes responsible for immune and inflammatory system pathways, responses to stress and external stimuli, as well as wound healing and coagulation cascades. Interestingly, our observations include significant, replicable associations between SERPINA1 hypomethylation and COPD and lower average lung function phenotypes (combined P values: COPD, 1.5 × 10−23; FEV1/FVC, 1.5 × 10−35; FEV1, 2.2 × 10−40).
Conclusions: Genetic and epigenetic pathways may both contribute to COPD. Many of the top associations between COPD and DNA methylation occur in biologically plausible pathways. This large-scale analysis suggests that DNA methylation may be a biomarker of COPD and may highlight new pathways of COPD pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3297093  PMID: 22161163
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; epigenetics; DNA methylation; smoking
17.  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
18.  Integration of Mouse and Human Genome-Wide Association Data Identifies KCNIP4 as an Asthma Gene 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56179.
Asthma is a common chronic respiratory disease characterized by airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). The genetics of asthma have been widely studied in mouse and human, and homologous genomic regions have been associated with mouse AHR and human asthma-related phenotypes. Our goal was to identify asthma-related genes by integrating AHR associations in mouse with human genome-wide association study (GWAS) data. We used Efficient Mixed Model Association (EMMA) analysis to conduct a GWAS of baseline AHR measures from males and females of 31 mouse strains. Genes near or containing SNPs with EMMA p-values <0.001 were selected for further study in human GWAS. The results of the previously reported EVE consortium asthma GWAS meta-analysis consisting of 12,958 diverse North American subjects from 9 study centers were used to select a subset of homologous genes with evidence of association with asthma in humans. Following validation attempts in three human asthma GWAS (i.e., Sepracor/LOCCS/LODO/Illumina, GABRIEL, DAG) and two human AHR GWAS (i.e., SHARP, DAG), the Kv channel interacting protein 4 (KCNIP4) gene was identified as nominally associated with both asthma and AHR at a gene- and SNP-level. In EVE, the smallest KCNIP4 association was at rs6833065 (P-value 2.9e-04), while the strongest associations for Sepracor/LOCCS/LODO/Illumina, GABRIEL, DAG were 1.5e-03, 1.0e-03, 3.1e-03 at rs7664617, rs4697177, rs4696975, respectively. At a SNP level, the strongest association across all asthma GWAS was at rs4697177 (P-value 1.1e-04). The smallest P-values for association with AHR were 2.3e-03 at rs11947661 in SHARP and 2.1e-03 at rs402802 in DAG. Functional studies are required to validate the potential involvement of KCNIP4 in modulating asthma susceptibility and/or AHR. Our results suggest that a useful approach to identify genes associated with human asthma is to leverage mouse AHR association data.
PMCID: PMC3572953  PMID: 23457522
19.  Genome-wide association study reveals class I MHC–restricted T cell–associated molecule gene (CRTAM) variants interact with vitamin D levels to affect asthma exacerbations 
It has recently been shown that vitamin D deficiency can increase asthma development and severity and that variations in vitamin D receptor genes are associated with asthma susceptibility.
We sought to find genetic factors that might interact with vitamin D levels to affect the risk of asthma exacerbation. Methods: We conducted a genome-wide study of gene–vitamin D interaction on asthma exacerbations using population-based and family-based approaches on 403 subjects and trios from the Childhood Asthma Management Program. Twenty-three polymorphisms with significant interactions were studied in a replication analysis in 584 children from a Costa Rican cohort. Results: We identified 3 common variants in the class I MHC–restricted T cell–associated molecule gene (CRTAM) that were associated with an increased rate of asthma exacerbations based on the presence of a low circulating vitamin D level. These results were replicated in a second independent population (unadjusted combined interaction, P =.00028–.00097; combined odds ratio, 3.28–5.38). One variant, rs2272094, is a nonsynonymous coding polymorphism of CRTAM. Functional studies on cell lines confirmed the interaction of vitamin D and rs2272094 on CRTAM expression. CRTAM is highly expressed in activated human CD8+ and natural killer T cells, both of which have been implicated in asthmatic patients.
The findings highlight an important gene-environment interaction that elucidates the role of vitamin D and CD8+ and natural killer T cells in asthma exacerbation in a genome-wide gene-environment interaction study that has been replicated in an independent population. The results suggest the potential importance of maintaining adequate vitamin D levels in subsets of high-risk asthmatic patients.
PMCID: PMC3360942  PMID: 22051697
Gene-environment interaction; genome-wide association study; vitamin D; asthma exacerbation
20.  Genome-Wide Association Analysis of Body Mass in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Cachexia, whether assessed by body mass index (BMI) or fat-free mass index (FFMI), affects a significant proportion of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and is an independent risk factor for increased mortality, increased emphysema, and more severe airflow obstruction. The variable development of cachexia among patients with COPD suggests a role for genetic susceptibility. The objective of the present study was to determine genetic susceptibility loci involved in the development of low BMI and FFMI in subjects with COPD. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) of BMI was conducted in three independent cohorts of European descent with Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease stage II or higher COPD: Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate End-Points (ECLIPSE; n = 1,734); Norway-Bergen cohort (n = 851); and a subset of subjects from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT; n = 365). A genome-wide association of FFMI was conducted in two of the cohorts (ECLIPSE and Norway). In the combined analyses, a significant association was found between rs8050136, located in the first intron of the fat mass and obesity–associated (FTO) gene, and BMI (P = 4.97 × 10−7) and FFMI (P = 1.19 × 10−7). We replicated the association in a fourth, independent cohort consisting of 502 subjects with COPD from COPDGene (P = 6 × 10−3). Within the largest contributing cohort of our analysis, lung function, as assessed by forced expiratory volume at 1 second, varied significantly by FTO genotype. Our analysis suggests a potential role for the FTO locus in the determination of anthropomorphic measures associated with COPD.
PMCID: PMC3266061  PMID: 21037115
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease genetics; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease epidemiology; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease metabolism; genome-wide association study
21.  Genome-Wide Association Analysis in Asthma Subjects Identifies SPATS2L as a Novel Bronchodilator Response Gene 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(7):e1002824.
Bronchodilator response (BDR) is an important asthma phenotype that measures reversibility of airway obstruction by comparing lung function (i.e. FEV1) before and after the administration of a short-acting β2-agonist, the most common rescue medications used for the treatment of asthma. BDR also serves as a test of β2-agonist efficacy. BDR is a complex trait that is partly under genetic control. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) of BDR, quantified as percent change in baseline FEV1 after administration of a β2-agonist, was performed with 1,644 non-Hispanic white asthmatic subjects from six drug clinical trials: CAMP, LOCCS, LODO, a medication trial conducted by Sepracor, CARE, and ACRN. Data for 469,884 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were used to measure the association of SNPs with BDR using a linear regression model, while adjusting for age, sex, and height. Replication of primary P-values was attempted in 501 white subjects from SARP and 550 white subjects from DAG. Experimental evidence supporting the top gene was obtained via siRNA knockdown and Western blotting analyses. The lowest overall combined P-value was 9.7E-07 for SNP rs295137, near the SPATS2L gene. Among subjects in the primary analysis, those with rs295137 TT genotype had a median BDR of 16.0 (IQR = [6.2, 32.4]), while those with CC or TC genotypes had a median BDR of 10.9 (IQR = [5.0, 22.2]). SPATS2L mRNA knockdown resulted in increased β2-adrenergic receptor levels. Our results suggest that SPATS2L may be an important regulator of β2-adrenergic receptor down-regulation and that there is promise in gaining a better understanding of the biological mechanisms of differential response to β2-agonists through GWAS.
Author Summary
Bronchodilator response (BDR) is an important asthma phenotype that measures reversibility of airway obstruction by comparing lung function before and after the administration of short-acting β2-agonists, common medications used for asthma treatment. We performed a genome-wide association study of BDR with 1,644 white asthmatic subjects from six drug clinical trials and attempted to replicate these findings in 1,051 white subjects from two independent cohorts. The most significant associated variant was near the SPATS2L gene. We knocked down SPATS2L mRNA in human airway smooth muscle cells and found that β2-adrenergic receptor levels increased, suggesting that SPATS2L may be a regulator of BDR. Our results highlight the promise of pursuing GWAS results that do not necessarily reach genome-wide significance and are an example of how results from pharmacogenetic GWAS can be studied functionally.
PMCID: PMC3390407  PMID: 22792082
22.  SOX5 Is a Candidate Gene for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Susceptibility and Is Necessary for Lung Development 
Rationale: Chromosome 12p has been linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study (BEOCOPD), but a susceptibility gene in that region has not been identified.
Objectives: We used high-density single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) mapping to implicate a COPD susceptibility gene and an animal model to determine the potential role of SOX5 in lung development and COPD.
Methods: On chromosome 12p, we genotyped 1,387 SNPs in 386 COPD cases from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial and 424 control smokers from the Normative Aging Study. SNPs with significant associations were then tested in the BEOCOPD study and the International COPD Genetics Network. Based on the human results, we assessed histology and gene expression in the lungs of Sox5−/− mice.
Measurements and Main Results: In the case-control analysis, 27 SNPs were significant at P ≤ 0.01. The most significant SNP in the BEOCOPD replication was rs11046966 (National Emphysema Treatment Trial–Normative Aging Study P = 6.0 × 10−4, BEOCOPD P = 1.5 × 10−5, combined P = 1.7 × 10−7), located 3′ to the gene SOX5. Association with rs11046966 was not replicated in the International COPD Genetics Network. Sox5−/− mice showed abnormal lung development, with a delay in maturation before the saccular stage, as early as E16.5. Lung pathology in Sox5−/− lungs was associated with a decrease in fibronectin expression, an extracellular matrix component critical for branching morphogenesis.
Conclusions: Genetic variation in the transcription factor SOX5 is associated with COPD susceptibility. A mouse model suggests that the effect may be due, in part, to its effects on lung development and/or repair processes.
PMCID: PMC3137139  PMID: 21330457
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; emphysema; knockout mice; lung development; single nucleotide polymorphism
23.  Regulatory Haplotypes in ARG1 Are Associated with Altered Bronchodilator Response 
Rationale: β2-agonists, the most common treatment for asthma, have a wide interindividual variability in response, which is partially attributed to genetic factors. We previously identified single nucleotide polymorphisms in the arginase 1 (ARG1) gene, which are associated with β2-agonist bronchodilator response (BDR).
Objectives: To identify cis-acting haplotypes in the ARG1 locus that are associated with BDR in patients with asthma and regulate gene expression in vitro.
Methods: We resequenced ARG1 in 96 individuals and identified three common, 5′ haplotypes (denoted 1, 2, and 3). A haplotype-based association analysis of BDR was performed in three independent, adult asthma drug trial populations. Next, each haplotype was cloned into vectors containing a luciferase reporter gene and transfected into human airway epithelial cells (BEAS-2B) to ascertain its effect on gene expression.
Measurements and Main Results: BDR varied by haplotype in each of the three populations with asthma. Individuals with haplotype 1 were more likely to have higher BDR, compared to those with haplotypes 2 and 3, which is supported by odds ratios of 1.25 (95% confidence interval, 1.03–1.71) and 2.18 (95% confidence interval, 1.34–2.52), respectively. Luciferase expression was 50% greater in cells transfected with haplotype 1 compared to haplotypes 2 and 3.
Conclusions: The identified ARG1 haplotypes seem to alter BDR and differentially regulate gene expression with a concordance of decreased BDR and reporter activity from haplotypes 2 and 3. These findings may facilitate pharmacogenetic tests to predict individuals who may benefit from other therapeutic agents in addition to β2-agonists for optimal asthma management.
Clinical trial registered with (NCT00156819, NCT00046644, and NCT00073840).
PMCID: PMC3056223  PMID: 20851928
pharmacogenetics; asthma; β2-agonist
24.  Mapping of numerous disease-associated expression polymorphisms in primary peripheral blood CD4+ lymphocytes 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;19(23):4745-4757.
Genome-wide association studies of human gene expression promise to identify functional regulatory genetic variation that contributes to phenotypic diversity. However, it is unclear how useful this approach will be for the identification of disease-susceptibility variants. We generated gene expression profiles for 22 184 mRNA transcripts using RNA derived from peripheral blood CD4+ lymphocytes, and genome-wide genotype data for 516 512 autosomal markers in 200 subjects. We screened for cis-acting variants by testing variants mapping within 50 kb of expressed transcripts for association with transcript abundance using generalized linear models. Significant associations were identified for 1585 genes at a false discovery rate of 0.05 (corresponding to P-values ranging from 1 × 10−91 to 7 × 10−4). Importantly, we identified evidence of regulatory variation for 119 previously mapped disease genes, including 24 examples where the variant with the strongest evidence of disease-association demonstrates strong association with specific transcript abundance. The prevalence of cis-acting variants among disease-associated genes was 63% higher than the genome-wide rate in our data set (P = 6.41 × 10−6), and although many of the implicated loci were associated with immune-related diseases (including asthma, connective tissue disorders and inflammatory bowel disease), associations with genes implicated in non-immune-related diseases including lipid profiles, anthropomorphic measurements, cancer and neurologic disease were also observed. Genetic variants that confer inter-individual differences in gene expression represent an important subset of variants that contribute to disease susceptibility. Population-based integrative genetic approaches can help identify such variation and enhance our understanding of the genetic basis of complex traits.
PMCID: PMC2972694  PMID: 20833654
25.  Chromosome 17: Association of a large inversion polymorphism with corticosteroid response in asthma 
Pharmacogenetics and genomics  2008;18(8):733-737.
A 900-KB inversion exists within a large region of conserved linkage disequilibrium (LD) on chromosome 17. CRHR1 is located within the inversion region and associated with inhaled corticosteroid response in asthma. We hypothesized that CRHR1 variants are in LD with the inversion, supporting a potential role for natural selection in the genetic response to corticosteroids. We genotyped 6 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) spanning chr17:40,410,565–42,372,240, including 4 SNPs defining inversion status. Similar allele frequencies and strong LD were noted between the inversion and a CRHR1 SNP previously associated with lung function response to inhaled corticosteroids. Each inversion-defining SNP was strongly associated with inhaled corticosteroid response in adult asthma (p-values 0.002–0.005). The CRHR1 response to inhaled corticosteroids may thus be explained by natural selection resulting from inversion status or by long-range LD with another gene. Additional pharmacogenetic investigations into to regions of chromosomal diversity, including copy number variation and inversions, are warranted.
PMCID: PMC3225071  PMID: 18622266
CRHR1; tau haplotype; MAPT; inversion; asthma; corticosteroid; pharmacogenetics

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