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2.  Genome-Wide Association Study for Levels of Total Serum IgE Identifies HLA-C in a Japanese Population 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e80941.
Most of the previously reported loci for total immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels are related to Th2 cell-dependent pathways. We undertook a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to identify genetic loci responsible for IgE regulation. A total of 479,940 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were tested for association with total serum IgE levels in 1180 Japanese adults. Fine-mapping with SNP imputation demonstrated 6 candidate regions: the PYHIN1/IFI16, MHC classes I and II, LEMD2, GRAMD1B, and chr13∶60576338 regions. Replication of these candidate loci in each region was assessed in 2 independent Japanese cohorts (n = 1110 and 1364, respectively). SNP rs3130941 in the HLA-C region was consistently associated with total IgE levels in 3 independent populations, and the meta-analysis yielded genome-wide significance (P = 1.07×10−10). Using our GWAS results, we also assessed the reproducibility of previously reported gene associations with total IgE levels. Nine of 32 candidate genes identified by a literature search were associated with total IgE levels after correction for multiple testing. Our findings demonstrate that SNPs in the HLA-C region are strongly associated with total serum IgE levels in the Japanese population and that some of the previously reported genetic associations are replicated across ethnic groups.
PMCID: PMC3851760  PMID: 24324648
3.  The search for common pathways underlying asthma and COPD 
Recently, several genes and genetic loci associated with both asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have been described as common susceptibility factors for the two diseases. In complex diseases such as asthma and COPD, a large number of molecular and cellular components may interact through complex networks involving gene–gene and gene–environment interactions. We sought to understand the functional and regulatory pathways that play central roles in the pathobiology of asthma and COPD and to understand the overlap between these pathways. We searched the PubMed database up to September 2012 to identify genes found to be associated with asthma, COPD, tuberculosis, or essential hypertension in at least two independent reports of candidate-gene associations or in genome-wide studies. To learn how the identified genes interact with each other and other cellular proteins, we conducted pathway-based analysis using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis software. We identified 108 genes and 58 genes that were significantly associated with asthma and COPD in at least two independent studies, respectively. These susceptibility genes were grouped into networks based on functional annotation: 12 (for asthma) and eleven (for COPD) networks were identified. Analysis of the networks for overlap between the two diseases revealed that the networks form a single complex network with 229 overlapping molecules. These overlapping molecules are significantly involved in canonical pathways including the “aryl hydrocarbon receptor signaling,” “role of cytokines in mediating communication between immune cells,” “glucocorticoid receptor signaling,” and “IL-12 signaling and production in macrophages” pathways. The Jaccard similarity index for the comparison between asthma and COPD was 0.81 for the network-level comparison, and the odds ratio was 3.62 (P < 0.0001) for the asthma/COPD pair in comparison with the tuberculosis/ essential hypertension pair. In conclusion, although the identification of asthma and COPD networks is still far from complete, these networks may be used as frameworks for integrating other genome-scale information including expression profiling and phenotypic analysis. Network overlap between asthma and COPD may indicate significant overlap between the pathobiology of these two diseases, which are thought to be genetically related.
PMCID: PMC3558318  PMID: 23378757
COPD; asthma; network; common pathways; aryl hydrocarbon receptor signaling
4.  Thymic Stromal Lymphopoietin Gene Promoter Polymorphisms Are Associated with Susceptibility to Bronchial Asthma 
Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) triggers dendritic cell–mediated T helper (Th) 2 inflammatory responses. A single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs3806933, in the promoter region of the TSLP gene creates a binding site for the transcription factor activating protein (AP)–1. The variant enhances AP-1 binding to the regulatory element, and increases the promoter–reporter activity of TSLP in response to polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (poly[I:C]) stimulation in normal human bronchial epithelium (NHBE). We investigated whether polymorphisms including the SNP rs3806933 could affect the susceptibility to and clinical phenotypes of bronchial asthma. We selected three representative (i.e., Tag) SNPs and conducted association studies of the TSLP gene, using two independent populations (639 patients with childhood atopic asthma and 838 control subjects, and 641 patients with adult asthma and 376 control subjects, respectively). We further examined the effects of corticosteroids and a long-acting β2-agonist (salmeterol) on the expression levels of the TSLP gene in response to poly(I:C) in NHBE. We found that the promoter polymorphisms rs3806933 and rs2289276 were significantly associated with disease susceptibility in both childhood atopic and adult asthma. The functional SNP rs3806933 was associated with asthma (meta-analysis, P = 0.000056; odds ratio, 1.29; 95% confidence interval, 1.14–1.47). A genotype of rs2289278 was correlated with pulmonary function. Moreover, the induction of TSLP mRNA and protein expression induced by poly(I:C) in NHBE was synergistically impaired by a corticosteroid and salmeterol. TSLP variants are significantly associated with bronchial asthma and pulmonary function. Thus, TSLP may serve as a therapeutic target molecule for combination therapy.
PMCID: PMC3159073  PMID: 20656951
asthma; TSLP; bronchial epithelial cells; combination therapy; genetic polymorphisms
5.  Variants of C-C Motif Chemokine 22 (CCL22) Are Associated with Susceptibility to Atopic Dermatitis: Case-Control Studies 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e26987.
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common inflammatory skin disease caused by multiple genetic and environmental factors. AD is characterized by the local infiltration of T helper type 2 (Th2) cells. Recent clinical studies have shown important roles of the Th2 chemokines, CCL22 and CCL17 in the pathogenesis of AD. To investigate whether polymorphisms of the CCL22 gene affect the susceptibility to AD, we conducted association studies and functional studies of the related variants. We first resequenced the CCL22 gene and found a total of 39 SNPs. We selected seven tag SNPs in the CCL22 gene, and conducted association studies using two independent Japanese populations (1st population, 916 cases and 1,032 controls; 2nd population 1,034 cases and 1,004 controls). After the association results were combined by inverse variance method, we observed a significant association at rs4359426 (meta-analysis, combined P = 9.6×10−6; OR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.65–0.85). Functional analysis revealed that the risk allele of rs4359426 contributed to higher expression levels of CCL22 mRNA. We further examined the allelic differences in the binding of nuclear proteins by electrophoretic mobility shift assay. The signal intensity of the DNA-protein complex derived from the G allele of rs223821, which was in absolute LD with rs4359426, was higher than that from the A allele. Although further functional analyses are needed, it is likely that related variants play a role in susceptibility to AD in a gain-of-function manner. Our findings provide a new insight into the etiology and pathogenesis of AD.
PMCID: PMC3219642  PMID: 22125604
6.  Role of Nrf2 in Host Defense against Influenza Virus in Cigarette Smoke-Exposed Mice ▿  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(10):4679-4690.
Influenza virus is a common respiratory tract viral infection. Although influenza can be fatal in patients with chronic pulmonary diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, its pathogenesis is not fully understood. The Nrf2-mediated antioxidant system is essential to protect the lungs from oxidative injury and inflammation. In the present study, we investigated the role of Nrf2 in protection against influenza virus-induced pulmonary inflammation after cigarette smoke exposure with both in vitro and in vivo approaches. For in vitro analyses, peritoneal macrophages isolated from wild-type and Nrf2-deficient mice were treated with poly(I:C) and/or cigarette smoke extract. For in vivo analysis, these mice were infected with influenza A virus with or without exposure to cigarette smoke. In Nrf2-deficient macrophages, NF-κB activation and the induction of its target inflammatory genes were enhanced after costimulation with cigarette smoke extract and poly(I:C) compared with wild-type macrophages. The induction of antioxidant genes was observed for the lungs of wild-type mice but not those of Nrf2-deficient mice after cigarette smoke exposure. Cigarette smoke-exposed Nrf2-deficient mice showed higher rates of mortality than did wild-type mice after influenza virus infection, with enhanced peribronchial inflammation, lung permeability damage, and mucus hypersecretion. Lung oxidant levels and NF-κB-mediated inflammatory gene expression in the lungs were also enhanced in Nrf2-deficient mice. Our data indicate that the antioxidant pathway controlled by Nrf2 is pivotal for protection against the development of influenza virus-induced pulmonary inflammation and injury under oxidative conditions.
PMCID: PMC3126158  PMID: 21367886
7.  Genome-Wide Association Study Identifies HLA-DP as a Susceptibility Gene for Pediatric Asthma in Asian Populations 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(7):e1002170.
Asthma is a complex phenotype influenced by genetic and environmental factors. We conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) with 938 Japanese pediatric asthma patients and 2,376 controls. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) showing strong associations (P<1×10−8) in GWAS were further genotyped in an independent Japanese samples (818 cases and 1,032 controls) and in Korean samples (835 cases and 421 controls). SNP rs987870, located between HLA-DPA1 and HLA-DPB1, was consistently associated with pediatric asthma in 3 independent populations (Pcombined = 2.3×10−10, odds ratio [OR] = 1.40). HLA-DP allele analysis showed that DPA1*0201 and DPB1*0901, which were in strong linkage disequilibrium, were strongly associated with pediatric asthma (DPA1*0201: P = 5.5×10−10, OR = 1.52, and DPB1*0901: P = 2.0×10−7, OR = 1.49). Our findings show that genetic variants in the HLA-DP locus are associated with the risk of pediatric asthma in Asian populations.
Author Summary
Asthma is the most common chronic disorder in children, and asthma exacerbation is an important cause of childhood morbidity and hospitalization. Here, taking advantage of recent technological advances in human genetics, we performed a genome-wide association study and follow-up validation studies to identify genetic variants for asthma. By examining 6,428 Asians, we found rs987870 and HLA-DPA1*0201/DPB1*0901 were associated with pediatric asthma. The association signal was stretched in the region of HLA-DPB2, collagen, type XI, alpha 2 (COL11A2), and Retinoid X receptor beta (RXRB), but strong linkage disequilibrium in this region made it difficult to specifically identify causative variants. Interestingly, the SNP (or the HLA-DP allele) associated with pediatric asthma (Th-2 type immune diseases) in the present study confers protection against Th-1 type immune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Therefore, the association results obtained in the present study could partially explain the inverse relationship between asthma and Th-1 type immune diseases and may lead to better understanding of Th-1/Th-2 immune diseases.
PMCID: PMC3140987  PMID: 21814517
8.  An interaction between Nrf2 polymorphisms and smoking status affects annual decline in FEV1: a longitudinal retrospective cohort study 
BMC Medical Genetics  2011;12:97.
An Nrf2-dependent response is a central protective mechanism against oxidative stress. We propose that particular genetic variants of the Nrf2 gene may be associated with a rapid forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) decline induced by cigarette smoking.
We conducted a retrospective cohort study of 915 Japanese from a general population. Values of annual decline in FEV1 were computed for each individual using a linear mixed-effect model. Multiple clinical characteristics were assessed to identify associations with annual FEV1 decline. Tag single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the Nrf2 gene (rs2001350, rs6726395, rs1962142, rs2364722) and one functional SNP (rs6721961) in the Nrf2 promoter region were genotyped to assess interactions between the Nrf2 polymorphisms and smoking status on annual FEV1 decline.
Annual FEV1 decline was associated with smoking behavior and inversely correlated with FEV1/FVC and FEV1 % predicted. The mean annual FEV1 declines in individuals with rs6726395 G/G, G/A, or A/A were 26.2, 22.3, and 20.8 mL/year, respectively, and differences in these means were statistically significant (pcorr = 0.016). We also found a significant interaction between rs6726395 genotype and smoking status on the FEV1 decline (p for interaction = 0.011). The haplotype rs2001350T/rs6726395A/rs1962142A/rs2364722A/rs6721961T was associated with lower annual decline in FEV1 (p = 0.004).
This study indicated that an Nrf2-dependent response to exogenous stimuli may affect annual FEV1 decline in the general population. It appears that the genetic influence of Nrf2 is modified by smoking status, suggesting the presence of a gene-environment interaction in accelerated decline in FEV1.
PMCID: PMC3160350  PMID: 21774808
9.  Lower FEV1 in non-COPD, nonasthmatic subjects: association with smoking, annual decline in FEV1, total IgE levels, and TSLP genotypes 
Few studies have investigated the significance of decreased FEV1 in non-COPD, nonasthmatic healthy subjects. We hypothesized that a lower FEV1 in these subjects is a potential marker of an increased susceptibility to obstructive lung disease such as asthma and COPD. This was a cross-sectional analysis of 1505 Japanese adults. We divided the population of healthy adults with no respiratory diseases whose FEV1/FVC ratio was ≥70% (n = 1369) into 2 groups according to their prebronchodilator FEV1 (% predicted) measurements: <80% (n = 217) and ≥80% (n = 1152). We compared clinical data – including gender, age, smoking habits, total IgE levels, and annual decline of FEV1 – between these 2 groups. In addition, as our group recently found that TSLP variants are associated with asthma and reduced lung function, we assessed whether TSLP single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were associated with baseline lung function in non-COPD, nonasthmatic healthy subjects (n = 1368). Although about half of the subjects with lower FEV1 had never smoked, smoking was the main risk factor for the decreased FEV1 in non-COPD, nonasthmatic subjects. However, the subjects with lower FEV1 had a significantly higher annual decline in FEV1 independent of smoking status. Airflow obstruction was associated with increased levels of total serum IgE (P = 0.029) and with 2 functional TSLP SNPs (corrected P = 0.027–0.058 for FEV1% predicted, corrected P = 0.015–0.033 for FEV1/FVC). This study highlights the importance of early recognition of a decreased FEV1 in healthy subjects without evident pulmonary diseases because it predicts a rapid decline in FEV1 irrespective of smoking status. Our series of studies identified TSLP variants as a potential susceptibility locus to asthma and to lower lung function in non-COPD, nonasthmatic healthy subjects, which may support the contention that genetic determinants of lung function influence susceptibility to asthma.
PMCID: PMC3064418  PMID: 21468164
airflow obstruction; asthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; pulmonary function test; thymic stromal lymphopoietin

Results 1-9 (9)