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1.  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
2.  Air Pollution and Respiratory Infections during Early Childhood: An Analysis of 10 European Birth Cohorts within the ESCAPE Project 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2013;122(1):107-113.
Background: Few studies have investigated traffic-related air pollution as a risk factor for respiratory infections during early childhood.
Objectives: We aimed to investigate the association between air pollution and pneumonia, croup, and otitis media in 10 European birth cohorts—BAMSE (Sweden), GASPII (Italy), GINIplus and LISAplus (Germany), MAAS (United Kingdom), PIAMA (the Netherlands), and four INMA cohorts (Spain)—and to derive combined effect estimates using meta-analysis.
Methods: Parent report of physician-diagnosed pneumonia, otitis media, and croup during early childhood were assessed in relation to annual average pollutant levels [nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx), particulate matter ≤ 2.5 μm (PM2.5), PM2.5 absorbance, PM10, PM2.5–10 (coarse PM)], which were estimated using land use regression models and assigned to children based on their residential address at birth. Identical protocols were used to develop regression models for each study area as part of the ESCAPE project. Logistic regression was used to calculate adjusted effect estimates for each study, and random-effects meta-analysis was used to calculate combined estimates.
Results: For pneumonia, combined adjusted odds ratios (ORs) were elevated and statistically significant for all pollutants except PM2.5 (e.g., OR = 1.30; 95% CI: 1.02, 1.65 per 10-μg/m3 increase in NO2 and OR = 1.76; 95% CI: 1.00, 3.09 per 10-μg/m3 PM10). For otitis media and croup, results were generally null across all analyses except for NO2 and otitis media (OR = 1.09; 95% CI: 1.02, 1.16 per 10-μg/m3).
Conclusion: Our meta-analysis of 10 European birth cohorts within the ESCAPE project found consistent evidence for an association between air pollution and pneumonia in early childhood, and some evidence for an association with otitis media.
Citation: MacIntyre EA, Gehring U, Mölter A, Fuertes E, Klümper C, Krämer U, Quass U, Hoffmann B, Gascon M, Brunekreef B, Koppelman GH, Beelen R, Hoek G, Birk M, de Jongste JC, Smit HA, Cyrys J, Gruzieva O, Korek M, Bergström A, Agius RM, de Vocht F, Simpson A, Porta D, Forastiere F, Badaloni C, Cesaroni G, Esplugues A, Fernández-Somoano A, Lerxundi A, Sunyer J, Cirach M, Nieuwenhuijsen MJ, Pershagen G, Heinrich J. 2014. Air pollution and respiratory infections during early childhood: an analysis of 10 European birth cohorts within the ESCAPE project. Environ Health Perspect 122:107–113;
PMCID: PMC3888562  PMID: 24149084
3.  BMI and Waist Circumference; Cross-Sectional and Prospective Associations with Blood Pressure and Cholesterol in 12-Year-Olds 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51801.
Childhood and adolescent overweight, defined by body mass index (BMI) are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in later life. Abdominal adiposity may be more important in associations with cardiovascular diseases but waist circumference (WC) has been rarely studied in children. We studied associations between BMI and WC and blood pressure (BP) and cholesterol in 12-year-old children and prospectively changes in BMI or WC status between age 8 and 12 years and BP and cholesterol at age 12.
Study Design
Weight, height, WC, BP and cholesterol concentrations were measured in 1432 children at age 12 years. Linear regression was used to study the associations between high BMI and large WC (>90th percentile) and BP and cholesterol.
Systolic BP was 4.9 mmHg higher (95% (CI 2.5, 7.2) in girls and 4.2 mmHg (95%CI 1.9, 6.5) in boys with a high BMI. Large WC was also associated with higher systolic BP in girls (3.7 mmHg (95%CI 1.3, 6.1)) and boys (3.5 mmHg (95%CI 1.2, 5.8)). Diastolic BP and cholesterol concentrations were significantly positively (HDL cholesterol negatively) associated with high BMI and large WC, too. Normal weight children with a history of overweight did not have higher blood pressure levels or adverse cholesterol concentrations than children that were normal weight at both ages.
A high BMI and large WC were associated with higher BP levels and adverse cholesterol concentrations. WC should be taken into account when examining cardiovascular risk factors in children.
PMCID: PMC3522600  PMID: 23251628
4.  BMI Development of Normal Weight and Overweight Children in the PIAMA Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39517.
There is evidence that rapid weight gain during the first year of life is associated with overweight later in life. However, results from studies exploring other critical periods for the development of overweight are inconsistent.
The objective was to investigate BMI development to assess at what ages essential differences between normal weight and overweight children occur, and to assess which age intervals the most strongly influence the risk of overweight at 8 years of age.
Longitudinal weight and height data were collected by annual questionnaires in a population of 3963 children participating in the PIAMA birth cohort study. BMI and BMI standard deviation scores (SDS) were calculated for every year from birth until 8 years of age. BMI, BMI SDS and BMI SDS change in each 1-year-age interval were compared between children with and without overweight at 8 years of age, using t-tests, logistic regression analysis and the analysis of response profiles method.
At 8 years of age, 10.5% of the children were overweight. Already at the age of 1 year, these children had a significantly higher mean BMI SDS than normal weight 8-year-olds, (0.53 vs 0.04). In each 1-year-age interval the change in BMI SDS was significantly associated with overweight at 8 years with odds ratios increasing from 1.14 (95% CI 1.04–1.24) per 1 SDS increase at 0–1 year to 2.40 (95% CI 2.09–2.76) at 7–8 years.
At every age, starting already in the first year of life, a rapid increase in BMI SDS was significantly associated with overweight risk at the age of 8 years. There was no evidence for a specific critical period for the development of overweight. Prevention of overweight should start early in life and be continued with age-specific interventions throughout childhood.
PMCID: PMC3386269  PMID: 22761811
5.  Pulmonary medium vessel vasculitis in an 11 year old boy: Hughes Stovin syndrome as a variant of polyarteritis nodosa? 
We present the case of an 11-year-old boy presenting with haemoptysis, dyspnoea and weight loss as a manifestation of isolated pulmonary vasculitis, leading to pulmonary hypertension. He also appeared to have a longstanding dural venous sinus thrombosis. This rare presentation, especially in childhood, might represent a case of the seldomly reported Hughes-Stovin syndrome. The patient achieved remission after therapy with cyclophosphamide pulses and high-dose steroids. Based on the presented case and review of the literature, we propose that this syndrome might be a variant of polyarteritis nodosa. This report highlights diagnostic issues and describes a successful treatment regimen.
PMCID: PMC3170265  PMID: 21816089
6.  A sequence variant on 17q21 is associated with age at onset and severity of asthma 
A sequence variant (rs7216389-T) near the ORMDL3 gene on chromosome 17q21 was recently found to be associated with childhood asthma. We sought to evaluate the effect of rs7216389-T on asthma subphenotypes and its correlation with expression levels of neighboring genes. The association of rs7216389-T with asthma was replicated in six European and one Asian study cohort (N=4917 cases N=34 589 controls). In addition, we found that the association of rs7216389-T was confined to cases with early onset of asthma, particularly in early childhood (age: 0–5 years OR=1.51, P=6.89·10−9) and adolescence (age: 14–17 years OR=1.71, P=5.47·10−9). A weaker association was observed for onset between 6 and 13 years of age (OR=1.17, P=0.035), but none for adult-onset asthma (OR=1.07, P=0.12). Cases were further stratified by sex, asthma severity and atopy status. An association with greater asthma severity was observed among early-onset asthma cases (P=0.0012), but no association with sex or atopy status was observed among the asthma cases. An association between sequence variants and the expression of genes in the 17q21 region was assessed in white blood cell RNA samples collected from Icelandic individuals (n=743). rs7216389 associated with the expression of GSDMB and ORMDL3 genes. However, other sequence variants showing a weaker association with asthma compared with that of rs7216389 were more strongly associated with the expression of both genes. Thus, the contribution of rs7216389-T to the development of asthma is unlikely to operate only through an impact on the expression of ORMDL3 or GSDMB genes.
PMCID: PMC2987388  PMID: 20372189
childhood asthma; single-nucleotide polymorphism; expression; ORMDL3; GSDMB
7.  Meta-analysis of 20 genome-wide linkage studies evidenced new regions linked to asthma and atopy 
Asthma is caused by a heterogeneous combination of environmental and genetic factors. In the context of GA2LEN (Global Allergy and Asthma European Network), we carried out meta-analyses of almost all genome-wide linkage screens conducted to date in 20 independent populations from different ethnic origins (≥3024 families with ≥10 027 subjects) for asthma, atopic asthma, bronchial hyper-responsiveness and five atopy-related traits (total immunoglobulin E level, positive skin test response (SPT) to at least one allergen or to House Dust Mite, quantitative score of SPT (SPTQ) and eosinophils (EOS)). We used the genome scan meta-analysis method to assess evidence for linkage within bins of traditionally 30-cM width, and explored the manner in which these results were affected by bin definition. Meta-analyses were conducted in all studies and repeated in families of European ancestry. Genome-wide evidence for linkage was detected for asthma in two regions (2p21–p14 and 6p21) in European families ascertained through two asthmatic sibs. With regard to atopy phenotypes, four regions reached genome-wide significance: 3p25.3–q24 in all families for SPT and three other regions in European families (2q32–q34 for EOS, 5q23–q33 for SPTQ and 17q12–q24 for SPT). Tests of heterogeneity showed consistent evidence of linkage of SPTQ to 3p11–3q21, whereas between-study heterogeneity was detected for asthma in 2p22–p13 and 6p21, and for atopic asthma in 1q23–q25. This large-scale meta-analysis provides an important resource of information that can be used to prioritize further fine-mapping studies and also be integrated with genome-wide association studies to increase power and better interpret the outcomes of these studies.
PMCID: PMC2987334  PMID: 20068594
asthma; atopy; meta-analysis; linkage scan
8.  The development of socio-economic health differences in childhood: results of the Dutch longitudinal PIAMA birth cohort 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:225.
People with higher socio-economic status (SES) are generally in better health. Less is known about when these socio-economic health differences set in during childhood and how they develop over time. The goal of this study was to prospectively study the development of socio-economic health differences in the Netherlands, and to investigate possible explanations for socio-economic variation in childhood health.
Data from the Dutch Prevention and Incidence of Asthma and Mite Allergy (PIAMA) birth cohort study were used for the analyses. The PIAMA study followed 3,963 Dutch children during their first eight years of life. Common childhood health problems (i.e. eczema, asthma symptoms, general health, frequent respiratory infections, overweight, and obesity) were assessed annually using questionnaires. Maternal educational level was used to indicate SES. Possible explanatory lifestyle determinants (breastfeeding, smoking during pregnancy, smoking during the first three months, and day-care centre attendance) and biological determinants (maternal age at birth, birthweight, and older siblings) were analysed using generalized estimating equations.
This study shows that socio-economic differences in a broad range of health problems are already present early in life, and persist during childhood. Children from families with low socio-economic backgrounds experience more asthma symptoms (odds ratio (OR) 1.27; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 1.08-1.49), poorer general health (OR 1.36; 95% CI 1.16-1.60), more frequent respiratory infections (OR 1.57; 95% CI 1.35-1.83), more overweight (OR 1.42; 95% CI 1.16-1.73), and more obesity (OR 2.82; 95% CI 1.80-4.41). The most important contributors to the observed childhood socio-economic health disparities are socio-economic differences in maternal age at birth, breastfeeding, and day-care centre attendance.
Socio-economic health disparities already occur very early in life. Socio-economic disadvantage takes its toll on child health before birth, and continues to do so during childhood. Therefore, action to reduce health disparities needs to start very early in life, and should also address socio-economic differences in maternal age at birth, breastfeeding habits, and day-care centre attendance.
PMCID: PMC3094243  PMID: 21486447
10.  Identification of PCDH1 as a Novel Susceptibility Gene for Bronchial Hyperresponsiveness 
Rationale: Asthma is a chronic inflammatory airway disease that affects more than 300 million individuals worldwide. Asthma is caused by interaction of genetic and environmental factors. Bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) is a hallmark of asthma and results from increased sensitivity of the airways to physical or chemical stimulants. BHR and asthma are linked to chromosome 5q31-q33.
Objectives: To identify a gene for BHR on chromosome 5q31-q33.
Methods: In 200 Dutch families with asthma, linkage analysis and fine mapping were performed, and the Protocadherin 1 gene (PCDH1) was identified. PCDH1 was resequenced in 96 subjects from ethnically diverse populations to identify novel sequence variants. Subsequent replication studies were undertaken in seven populations from The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States, including two general population samples, two family samples, and three case-control samples. PCDH1 mRNA and protein expression was investigated using polymerase chain reaction, Western blotting, and immunohistochemistry.
Measurements and Main Results: In seven out of eight populations (n = 6,168) from The Netherlands, United Kingdom, and United States, PCHD1 gene variants were significantly associated with BHR (P values, 0.005–0.05) This association was present in both families with asthma and general populations. PCDH1 mRNA and protein were expressed in airway epithelial cells and in macrophages.
Conclusions: PCDH1 is a novel gene for BHR in adults and children. The identification of PCDH1 as a BHR susceptibility gene may suggest that a structural defect in the integrity of the airway epithelium, the first line of defense against inhaled substances, contributes to the development of BHR.
PMCID: PMC2778155  PMID: 19729670
bronchial hyperresponsiveness; asthma genetics; protocadherin-1; cell adhesion; airway epithelium
11.  Variants of the FADS1 FADS2 Gene Cluster, Blood Levels of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Eczema in Children within the First 2 Years of Life 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13261.
Association of genetic-variants in the FADS1-FADS2-gene-cluster with fatty-acid-composition in blood of adult-populations is well established. We analyze this genetic-association in two children-cohort-studies. In addition, the association between variants in the FADS-gene-cluster and blood-fatty-acid-composition with eczema was studied.
Methods and Principal Findings
Data of two population-based-birth-cohorts in the Netherlands and Germany (KOALA, LISA) were pooled (n = 879) and analyzed by (logistic) regression regarding the mutual influence of single-nucleotide-polymorphisms (SNPs) in the FADS-gene-cluster (rs174545, rs174546, rs174556, rs174561, rs3834458), on polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in blood and parent-reported eczema until the age of 2 years. All SNPs were highly significantly associated with all PUFAs except for alpha-linolenic-acid and eicosapentaenoic-acid, also after correction for multiple-testing. All tested SNPs showed associations with eczema in the LISA-study, but not in the KOALA-study. None of the PUFAs was significantly associated with eczema neither in the pooled nor in the analyses stratified by study-cohort.
Conclusions and Significance
PUFA-composition in young children's blood is under strong control of the FADS-gene-cluster. Inconsistent results were found for a link between these genetic-variants with eczema. PUFA in blood was not associated with eczema. Thus the hypothesis of an inflammatory-link between PUFA and eczema by the metabolic-pathway of LC-PUFAs as precursors for inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes could not be confirmed by these data.
PMCID: PMC2952585  PMID: 20948998
12.  Diet, Screen Time, Physical Activity, and Childhood Overweight in the General Population and in High Risk Subgroups: Prospective Analyses in the PIAMA Birth Cohort 
Journal of Obesity  2010;2010:423296.
Objective. To prospectively identify behavioral risk factors for childhood overweight and to assess their relevance in high risk sub groups (children of mothers with overweight or low education). Methods. In the PIAMA birth cohort (n = 3963), questionnaire data were obtained at ages 5 and 7 on “screen time”, walking or cycling to school, playing outside, sports club membership, fast food consumption, snack consumption and soft drink consumption. Weight and height were measured at age 8 years. Results. Screen time, but none of the other hypothesized behavioral factors, was associated with overweight (aOR 1.4 (CI: 1.2–1.6)). The adjusted population attributable risk fraction for screen time > 1 hr/day was 10% in the high risk and 17% in the low risk sub groups. Conclusion. Reduction of screen time to < 1 hr/day could result in a reduction of overweight prevalence in the order of 2 percentage points in both high and low risks sub groups.
PMCID: PMC2915806  PMID: 20721356
13.  Association of Interacting Genes in the Toll-Like Receptor Signaling Pathway and the Antibody Response to Pertussis Vaccination 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(11):e3665.
Activation of the Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling pathway through TLR4 may be important in the induction of protective immunity against Bordetella pertussis with TLR4-mediated activation of dendritic and B cells, induction of cytokine expression, and reversal of tolerance as crucial steps. We examined whether single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes of the TLR4 pathway and their interaction are associated with the response to whole-cell vaccine (WCV) pertussis vaccination in 490 one-year-old children.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We analyzed associations of 75 haplotype-tagging SNPs in genes in the TLR4 signaling pathway with pertussis toxin (PT)-IgG titers. We found significant associations between the PT-IgG titer and SNPs in CD14, TLR4, TOLLIP, TIRAP, IRAK3, IRAK4, TICAM1, and TNFRSF4 in one or more of the analyses. The strongest evidence for association was found for two SNPs (rs5744034 and rs5743894) in TOLLIP that were almost completely in linkage disequilibrium, provided statistically significant associations in all tests with the lowest p-values, and displayed a dominant mode of inheritance. However, none of these single gene associations would withstand correction for multiple testing. In addition, Multifactor Dimensionality Reduction Analysis, an approach that does not need correction for multiple testing, showed significant and strong two and three locus interactions between SNPs in TOLLIP (rs4963060), TLR4 (rs6478317) and IRAK1 (rs1059703).
We have identified significant interactions between genes in the TLR pathway in the induction of vaccine-induced immunity. These interactions underline that these genes are functionally related and together form a true biological relationship in a protein-protein interaction network. Practically all our findings may be explained by genetic variation in directly or indirectly interacting proteins at the extra- and intracytoplasmic sites of the cell membrane of antigen-presenting cells, B cells, or both. Fine tuning of interacting proteins in the TLR pathway appears important for the induction of an optimal vaccine response.
PMCID: PMC2573957  PMID: 18987746
14.  Meta-analysis of genome-wide linkage studies of asthma and related traits 
Respiratory Research  2008;9(1):38.
Asthma and allergy are complex multifactorial disorders, with both genetic and environmental components determining disease expression. The use of molecular genetics holds great promise for the identification of novel drug targets for the treatment of asthma and allergy. Genome-wide linkage studies have identified a number of potential disease susceptibility loci but replication remains inconsistent. The aim of the current study was to complete a meta-analysis of data from genome-wide linkage studies of asthma and related phenotypes and provide inferences about the consistency of results and to identify novel regions for future gene discovery.
The rank based genome-scan meta-analysis (GSMA) method was used to combine linkage data for asthma and related traits; bronchial hyper-responsiveness (BHR), allergen positive skin prick test (SPT) and total serum Immunoglobulin E (IgE) from nine Caucasian asthma populations.
Significant evidence for susceptibility loci was identified for quantitative traits including; BHR (989 pedigrees, n = 4,294) 2p12-q22.1, 6p22.3-p21.1 and 11q24.1-qter, allergen SPT (1,093 pedigrees, n = 4,746) 3p22.1-q22.1, 17p12-q24.3 and total IgE (729 pedigrees, n = 3,224) 5q11.2-q14.3 and 6pter-p22.3. Analysis of the asthma phenotype (1,267 pedigrees, n = 5,832) did not identify any region showing genome-wide significance.
This study represents the first linkage meta-analysis to determine the relative contribution of chromosomal regions to the risk of developing asthma and atopy. Several significant results were obtained for quantitative traits but not for asthma confirming the increased phenotype and genetic heterogeneity in asthma. These analyses support the contribution of regions that contain previously identified asthma susceptibility genes and provide the first evidence for susceptibility loci on 5q11.2-q14.3 and 11q24.1-qter.
PMCID: PMC2391165  PMID: 18442398
15.  Toll-Like Receptor 4 Polymorphism Associated with the Response to Whole-Cell Pertussis Vaccination in Children from the KOALA Study▿  
Clinical and Vaccine Immunology : CVI  2007;14(10):1377-1380.
We examined the association between haplotype tagging single-nucleotide polymorphisms in TLR4 and the pertussis toxin-specific immunoglobulin G response after whole-cell pertussis (wP) vaccination in 515 1-year-old children from the KOALA study. A lower titer was associated with the minor allele of rs2770150, supporting a role for Toll-like receptor 4 in the antibody response to wP vaccination.
PMCID: PMC2168111  PMID: 17699831
16.  Genomewide Screen for Pulmonary Function in 200 Families Ascertained for Asthma 
Changes in pulmonary function are important in determining asthma outcome. Genetic factors may influence airway obstruction in asthma. We performed a genomewide screen in 200 families of probands objectively diagnosed with asthma in the 1960s to identify chromosomal regions related to changes in pre- and postbronchodilator lung function (FEV1, VC, and FEV1%VC) and assess influences of early-life smoke exposure. Smoking (pack-years), age, sex, and height were covariates in variance component analyses. Significant evidence for linkage of pre- and postbronchodilator FEV1%VC was obtained for chromosome 2q32 (LOD,4.9, increasing to 6.03 with additional fine-mapping markers, and 3.2, respectively). Linkage existed for chromosome 5q for pre- and postbronchodilator VC (likelihood of disease [LOD], 1.8 and 2.6, respectively). Results for pre- and postbronchodilator FEV1 were less significant (LOD, 1.5 and 1.6, chromosomes 11p and 10q, respectively). Results were not affected by passive smoke exposure. There is significant evidence for linkage of FEV1%VC to chromosome 2q32 in families of probands with asthma, 35 cM proximal from linkage previously observed in families of probands with early-onset chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Thus, there may be multiple genes on chromosome 2q that are important in determining presence and degree of airflow limitation in families ascertained for obstructive airway disease.
PMCID: PMC2718527  PMID: 15901612
asthma; function; genes; linkage; lung
17.  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
18.  Genetic Variation in FADS Genes and Plasma Cholesterol Levels in 2-Year-Old Infants: KOALA Birth Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e61671.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes involved in fatty acid metabolism (FADS1 FADS2 gene cluster) are associated with plasma lipid levels. We aimed to investigate whether these associations are already present early in life and compare the relative contribution of FADS SNPs vs traditional (non-genetic) factors as determinants of plasma lipid levels.
Information on infants’ plasma total cholesterol levels, genotypes of five FADS SNPs (rs174545, rs174546, rs174556, rs174561, and rs3834458), anthropometric data, maternal characteristics, and breastfeeding history was available for 521 2-year-old children from the KOALA Birth Cohort Study. For 295 of these 521 children, plasma HDLc and non-HDLc levels were also known. Multivariable linear regression analysis was used to study the associations of genetic and non-genetic determinants with cholesterol levels.
All FADS SNPs were significantly associated with total cholesterol levels. Heterozygous and homozygous for the minor allele children had about 4% and 8% lower total cholesterol levels than major allele homozygotes. In addition, homozygous for the minor allele children had about 7% lower HDLc levels. This difference reached significance for the SNPs rs174546 and rs3834458. The associations went in the same direction for non-HDLc, but statistical significance was not reached. The percentage of total variance of total cholesterol levels explained by FADS SNPs was relatively low (lower than 3%) but of the same order as that explained by gender and the non-genetic determinants together.
FADS SNPs are associated with plasma total cholesterol and HDLc levels in preschool children. This brings a new piece of evidence to explain how blood lipid levels may track from childhood to adulthood. Moreover, the finding that these SNPs explain a similar amount of variance in total cholesterol levels as the non-genetic determinants studied reveals the potential importance of investigating the effects of genetic variations in early life.
PMCID: PMC3648514  PMID: 23667444
19.  Genome-wide association study of lung function decline in adults with and without asthma 
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified determinants of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and lung function level, however none addressed decline in lung function.
We conducted the first GWAS on age-related decline in forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1) and in its ratio to forced vital capacity (FVC) stratified a priori by asthma status.
Discovery cohorts included adults of European ancestry (1441 asthmatics, 2677 non-asthmatics; Epidemiological Study on the Genetics and Environment of Asthma (EGEA); Swiss Cohort Study on Air Pollution And Lung And Heart Disease In Adults (SAPALDIA); European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS)). The associations of FEV1 and FEV1/FVC decline with 2.5 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were estimated. Thirty loci were followed-up by in silico replication (1160 asthmatics, 10858 non-asthmatics: Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC); Framingham Heart Study (FHS); British 1958 Birth Cohort (B58C); Dutch asthma study).
Main signals identified differed between asthmatics and non-asthmatics. None of the SNPs reached genome-wide significance. The association between the height related gene DLEU7 and FEV1 decline suggested for non-asthmatics in the discovery phase was replicated (discovery P=4.8×10−6; replication P=0.03) and additional sensitivity analyses point to a relation to growth. The top ranking signal, TUSC3, associated with FEV1/FVC decline in asthmatics (P=5.3×10−8) did not replicate. SNPs previously associated with cross-sectional lung function were not prominently associated with decline.
Genetic heterogeneity of lung function may be extensive. Our results suggest that genetic determinants of longitudinal and cross-sectional lung function differ and vary by asthma status.
PMCID: PMC3340499  PMID: 22424883
Asthma; cohort studies; genome-wide association; lung function decline; heterogeneity
20.  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
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.  IL1RL1 Gene Variants and Nasopharyngeal IL1RL-a Levels Are Associated with Severe RSV Bronchiolitis: A Multicenter Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e34364.
Targets for intervention are required for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) bronchiolitis, a common disease during infancy for which no effective treatment exists. Clinical and genetic studies indicate that IL1RL1 plays an important role in the development and exacerbations of asthma. Human IL1RL1 encodes three isoforms, including soluble IL1RL1-a, that can influence IL33 signalling by modifying inflammatory responses to epithelial damage. We hypothesized that IL1RL1 gene variants and soluble IL1RL1-a are associated with severe RSV bronchiolitis.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We studied the association between RSV and 3 selected IL1RL1 single-nucleotide polymorphisms rs1921622, rs11685480 or rs1420101 in 81 ventilated and 384 non-ventilated children under 1 year of age hospitalized with primary RSV bronchiolitis in comparison to 930 healthy controls. Severe RSV infection was defined by need for mechanical ventilation. Furthermore, we examined soluble IL1RL1-a concentration in nasopharyngeal aspirates from children hospitalized with primary RSV bronchiolitis. An association between SNP rs1921622 and disease severity was found at the allele and genotype level (p = 0.011 and p = 0.040, respectively). In hospitalized non-ventilated patients, RSV bronchiolitis was not associated with IL1RL1 genotypes. Median concentrations of soluble IL1RL1-a in nasopharyngeal aspirates were >20-fold higher in ventilated infants when compared to non-ventilated infants with RSV (median [and quartiles] 9,357 [936–15,528] pg/ml vs. 405 [112–1,193] pg/ml respectively; p<0.001).
We found a genetic link between rs1921622 IL1RL1 polymorphism and disease severity in RSV bronchiolitis. The potential biological role of IL1RL1 in the pathogenesis of severe RSV bronchiolitis was further supported by high local concentrations of IL1RL1 in children with most severe disease. We speculate that IL1RL1a modifies epithelial damage mediated inflammatory responses during RSV bronchiolitis and thus may serve as a novel target for intervention to control disease severity.
PMCID: PMC3344820  PMID: 22574108
23.  Early-Life Determinants of Total and HDL Cholesterol Concentrations in 8-Year-Old Children; The PIAMA Birth Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e25533.
Adult cholesterol concentrations might be influenced by early-life factors, such as breastfeeding and birth weight, referred to as “early programming”. How such early factors exert their influence over the life course is still poorly understood. Evidence from studies in children and adolescents is scarce and conflicting. We investigated the influence of 6 different perinatal risk factors on childhood total and HDL cholesterol concentrations and total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio measured at 8 years of age, and additionally we studied the role of the child's current Body Mass Index (BMI).
Anthropometric measures and blood plasma samples were collected during a medical examination in 751 8-year-old children participating in the prospective Prevention and Incidence of Asthma and Mite Allergy (PIAMA) birth cohort study. Linear and logistic regression were performed to estimate associations of total and HDL cholesterol concentrations with breastfeeding, birth weight, infant weight gain, maternal overweight before pregnancy, gestational diabetes and maternal smoking during pregnancy, taking into account the child's current BMI.
Linear regressions showed an association between total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio and maternal pre-pregnancy overweight (β = 0.15, Confidence Interval 95% (CI): 0.02, 0.28), rapid infant weight gain (β = 0.13, 95%CI: 0.01, 0.26), and maternal smoking during pregnancy (β = 0.14, 95%CI: 0.00, 0.29). These associations were partly mediated by the child's BMI.
Total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio in 8-year-old children was positively associated with maternal pre-pregnancy overweight, maternal smoking during pregnancy and rapid infant weight gain.
PMCID: PMC3181258  PMID: 21980486

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