Asthma is a common, chronic inflammatory airway disease of major public health importance with multiple genetic determinants. Previously, we found by positional cloning that PHD finger protein 11 (PHF11) on chromosome 13q14 modifies serum immunoglobulin E (IgE) concentrations and asthma susceptibility. No coding variants in PHF11 were identified.
Here we investigate the 3 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in this gene most significantly associated with total serum IgE levels—rs3765526, rs9526569, and rs1046295—for a role in transcription factor binding.
We used electrophoretic mobility shift assays to examine the effect of the 3 SNPs on transcription factor binding in 3 cell lines relevant to asthma pathogenesis. Relative preferential expression of alleles was investigated by using the allelotyping method.
Electrophoretic mobility shift assays show that rs1046295 modulates allele-specific binding by the octamer-binding transcription factor 1 (Oct-1). Analysis of the relative expression levels of the 2 alleles of this SNP in heterozygous individuals showed a modest, but highly significant (P = 6.5 × 10−16), preferential expression of the A allele consistent with a functional role for rs1046295.
These results suggest a mechanism by which rs1046295 may act as a regulatory variant modulating transcription at this locus and altering asthma susceptibility.
Asthma genetics; PHF11; IgE; rs1046295; electrophoretic mobility shift assay; Oct-1; gene expression
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.
GWAS; proteolysis; respiratory disease; HBECs; cellular proliferation and wound repair
Differences in methylation across tissues are critical to cell differentiation and are key to understanding the role of epigenetics in complex diseases. In this investigation, we found that locus-specific methylation differences between tissues are highly consistent across individuals. We developed a novel statistical model to predict locus-specific methylation in target tissue based on methylation in surrogate tissue. The method was evaluated in publicly available data and in two studies using the latest IlluminaBeadChips: a childhood asthma study with methylation measured in both peripheral blood leukocytes (PBL) and lymphoblastoid cell lines; and a study of postoperative atrial fibrillation with methylation in PBL, atrium and artery. We found that our method can greatly improve accuracy of cross-tissue prediction at CpG sites that are variable in the target tissue [R2 increases from 0.38 (original R2 between tissues) to 0.89 for PBL-to-artery prediction; from 0.39 to 0.95 for PBL-to-atrium; and from 0.81 to 0.98 for lymphoblastoid cell line-to-PBL based on cross-validation, and confirmed using cross-study prediction]. An extended model with multiple CpGs further improved performance. Our results suggest that large-scale epidemiology studies using easy-to-access surrogate tissues (e.g. blood) could be recalibrated to improve understanding of epigenetics in hard-to-access tissues (e.g. atrium) and might enable non-invasive disease screening using epigenetic profiles.
We performed a genome-wide association study in non-Hispanic white subjects with fibrotic idiopathic interstitial pneumonias (N=1616) and controls (N=4683); replication was assessed in 876 cases and 1890 controls. We confirmed association with TERT and MUC5B on chromosomes 5p15 and 11p15, respectively, the chromosome 3q26 region near TERC, and identified 7 novel loci (PMeta = 2.4×10−8 to PMeta = 1.1×10−19). The novel loci include FAM13A (4q22), DSP (6p24), OBFC1 (10q24), ATP11A (13q34), DPP9 (19p13), and chromosomal regions 7q22 and 15q14-15. Our results demonstrate that genes involved in host defense, cell-cell adhesion, and DNA repair contribute to the risk of fibrotic IIP.
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most common dermatological disease of childhood. Many children with AD have asthma and AD shares regions of genetic linkage with psoriasis, another chronic inflammatory skin disease. We present here a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of childhood-onset AD in 1563 European cases with known asthma status and 4054 European controls. Using Illumina genotyping followed by imputation, we generated 268 034 consensus genotypes and in excess of 2 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for analysis. Association signals were assessed for replication in a second panel of 2286 European cases and 3160 European controls. Four loci achieved genome-wide significance for AD and replicated consistently across all cohorts. These included the epidermal differentiation complex (EDC) on chromosome 1, the genomic region proximal to LRRC32 on chromosome 11, the RAD50/IL13 locus on chromosome 5 and the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on chromosome 6; reflecting action of classical HLA alleles. We observed variation in the contribution towards co-morbid asthma for these regions of association. We further explored the genetic relationship between AD, asthma and psoriasis by examining previously identified susceptibility SNPs for these diseases. We found considerable overlap between AD and psoriasis together with variable coincidence between allergic rhinitis (AR) and asthma. Our results indicate that the pathogenesis of AD incorporates immune and epidermal barrier defects with combinations of specific and overlapping effects at individual loci.
Increasing evidence suggests that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with complex traits are more likely to be expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs). Incorporating eQTL information hence has potential to increase power of genome-wide association studies (GWAS). In this paper, we propose using eQTL weights as prior information in SNP based association tests to improve test power while maintaining control of the family-wise error rate (FWER) or the false discovery rate (FDR). We apply the proposed methods to the analysis of a GWAS for childhood asthma consisting of 1296 unrelated individuals with German ancestry. The results confirm that eQTLs are enriched for previously reported asthma SNPs. We also find that some SNPs are insignificant using procedures without eQTL weighting, but become significant using eQTL-weighted Bonferroni or Benjamini–Hochberg procedures, while controlling the same FWER or FDR level. Some of these SNPs have been reported by independent studies in recent literature. The results suggest that the eQTL-weighted procedures provide a promising approach for improving power of GWAS. We also report the results of our methods applied to the large-scale European GABRIEL consortium data.
asthma; family-wise error rate; false discovery rate; eQTL; genome-wide association study; weighted hypothesis test
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.
Asthma; cohort studies; genome-wide association; lung function decline; heterogeneity
Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have primarily focused on marginal effects for individual markers and have incorporated external functional information only after identifying robust statistical associations. We applied a new approach combining the genetics of gene expression and functional classification of genes to the GWAS of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) to identify potential biological pathways associated with BCC. We first identified 322,324 expression-associated single-nucleotide polymorphisms (eSNPs) from two existing GWASs of global gene expression in lymphoblastoid cell lines (n=995), and evaluated the association of these functionally annotated SNPs with BCC among 2,045 BCC cases and 6,013 controls in Caucasians. We then grouped them into 99 KEGG pathways for pathway analysis and identified two pathways associated with BCC with p-value < 0.05 and false discovery rate (FDR) < 0.5: the autoimmune thyroid disease pathway (mainly HLA class I and II antigens, p < 0.001, FDR = 0.24) and JAK-STAT signaling pathway (p = 0.02, FDR = 0.49). Seventy nine (25.7%) out of 307 eSNPs in the JAK-STAT pathway were associated with BCC risk (p < 0.05) in an independent replication set of 278 BCC cases and 1,262 controls. In addition, the association of JAK-STAT signaling pathway was marginally validated by using 16,691 eSNPs identified from 110 normal skin samples (p = 0.08). Based on the evidence of biological functions of the JAK-STAT pathway on oncogenesis, it is plausible that this pathway is involved in BCC pathogenesis.
Pathway analysis; Basal cell carcinoma; GWAS; JAK-STAT
Observations that the airway microbiome is disturbed in asthma may be confounded by the widespread use of antibiotics and inhaled steroids. We have therefore examined the oropharyngeal microbiome in early onset wheezing infants from a rural area of tropical Ecuador where antibiotic usage is minimal and glucocorticoid usage is absent.
Materials and Methods
We performed pyrosequencing of amplicons of the polymorphic bacterial 16S rRNA gene from oropharyngeal samples from 24 infants with non-infectious early onset wheezing and 24 healthy controls (average age 10.2 months). We analyzed microbial community structure and differences between cases and controls by QIIME software.
We obtained 76,627 high quality sequences classified into 182 operational taxonomic units (OTUs). Firmicutes was the most common and diverse phylum (71.22% of sequences) with Streptococcus being the most common genus (49.72%). Known pathogens were found significantly more often in cases of infantile wheeze compared to controls, exemplified by Haemophilus spp. (OR = 2.12, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 1.82–2.47; P = 5.46×10−23) and Staphylococcus spp. (OR = 124.1, 95%CI 59.0–261.2; P = 1.87×10−241). Other OTUs were less common in cases than controls, notably Veillonella spp. (OR = 0.59, 95%CI = 0.56–0.62; P = 8.06×10−86).
The airway microbiota appeared to contain many more Streptococci than found in Western Europe and the USA. Comparisons between healthy and wheezing infants revealed a significant difference in several bacterial phylotypes that were not confounded by antibiotics or use of inhaled steroids. The increased prevalence of pathogens such as Haemophilus and Staphylococcus spp. in cases may contribute to wheezing illnesses in this age group.
The 16S rRNA gene is conserved across all bacteria and as such is routinely targeted in PCR surveys of bacterial diversity. PCR primer design aims to amplify as many different 16S rRNA gene sequences from as wide a range of organisms as possible, though there are no suitable 100% conserved regions of the gene, leading to bias. In the gastrointestinal tract, bifidobacteria are a key genus, but are often under-represented in 16S rRNA surveys of diversity. We have designed modified, ‘bifidobacteria-optimised’ universal primers, which we have demonstrated detection of bifidobacterial sequence present in DNA mixtures at 2% abundance, the lowest proportion tested. Optimisation did not compromise the detection of other organisms in infant faecal samples. Separate validation using fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) shows that the proportions of bifidobacteria detected in faecal samples were in agreement with those obtained using 16S rRNA based pyrosequencing. For future studies looking at faecal microbiota, careful selection of primers will be key in order to ensure effective detection of bifidobacteria.
Gene expression profiling could assist in revealing biomarkers of lung cancer prognosis and progression. The handling of biological samples may strongly influence global gene expression, a fact that has not been addressed in many studies. We sought to investigate the changes in gene expression that may occur as a result of sample processing time and conditions. Using Illumina Human WG-6 arrays, we quantified gene expression in lung carcinoma samples from six patients obtained at chest opening before and immediately after lung resection with storage in RNAlater [T1a(CO) and T1b(LR)], after receipt of the sample for histopathology, placed in RNAlater [T2a(HP)]; snap frozen [T2b(HP.SF)]; or snap frozen and stored for 1 week [T2c(HP.SFA)], as well as formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) block samples. Sampling immediately after resection closely represented the tissue obtained in situ, with only 1% of genes differing more than twofold [T1a(CO) versus T1b(LR)]. Delaying tissue harvest for an average of 30 minutes from the operating theater had a significant impact on gene expression, with approximately 25% of genes differing between T1a(CO) and T2a(HP). Many genes previously identified as lung cancer biomarkers were altered during this period. Examination of FFPE specimens showed minimal correlation with fresh samples. This study shows that tissue collection immediately after lung resection with conservation in RNAlater is an optimal strategy for gene expression profiling.
We have previously shown evidence that polymorphisms within genes controlling leukotriene B4 (LTB4) production (ALOX5AP and LTA4H) are associated with asthma susceptibility in children. Evidence also suggests a potential role of LTB4 in COPD disease mechanisms including recruitment of neutrophils to the lung. The aim of the current study was to see if these SNPs and those spanning the receptor genes for LTB4 (LTB4R1 and LTB4R2) influence baseline lung function and COPD susceptibility/severity in smokers.
Eight ALOX5AP, six LTA4H and six LTB4R single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were genotyped in a UK Smoking Cohort (n = 992). Association with baseline lung function (FEV1 and FEV1/FVC ratio) was determined by linear regression. Logistic regression was used to compare smoking controls (n = 176) with spirometry-defined COPD cases (n = 599) and to more severe COPD cases (GOLD stage 3 and 4, n = 389).
No association with ALOX5AP, LTA4H or LTB4R survived correction for multiple testing. However, we showed modest association with LTA4H rs1978331C (intron 11) with increased FEV1 (p = 0.029) and with increased FEV1/FVC ratio (p = 0.020).
These data suggest that polymorphisms spanning ALOX5AP, LTA4H and the LTB4R locus are not major determinants of baseline lung function in smokers, but provide tentative evidence for LTA4H rs1978331C (intron 11) in determining baseline FEV1 and FEV1/FVC ratio in Caucasian Smokers in addition to our previously identified role in asthma susceptibility.
The past 3 years have seen highly significant genetic effects identified for a wide variety of common complex diseases, including the airway disorders of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It appears that only a portion of the genetically mediated susceptibility to complex diseases has been identified, and there is much left to be discovered. This review briefly describes the results of the genome-wide association studies of asthma and gives an overview of the parallel and increasingly large-scale studies that are taking place with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The future impact is discussed of technological advances that allow increasingly large-scale gene expression studies, next-generation sequencing, and genome-wide testing for epigenetic effects. The use of genetic technology to examine the airway microbiota that interact with the mucosa in health and disease is described.
asthma; COPD; genetics; gene expression; epigenetics
severe asthma; 17q21; ORMDL3
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.
asthma; atopy; meta-analysis; linkage scan
Waist-hip ratio (WHR) is a measure of body fat distribution and a predictor of metabolic consequences independent of overall adiposity. WHR is heritable, but few genetic variants influencing this trait have been identified. We conducted a meta-analysis of 32 genome-wide association studies for WHR adjusted for body-mass-index (up to 77,167 participants), following up 16 loci in an additional 29 studies (up to 113,636 subjects). We identified 13 novel loci in or near RSPO3, VEGFA, TBX15-WARS2, NFE2L3, GRB14, DNM3-PIGC, ITPR2-SSPN, LY86, HOXC13, ADAMTS9, ZNRF3-KREMEN1, NISCH-STAB1, and CPEB4 (P 1.9 × 10−9 to 1.8 × 10−40), and the known signal at LYPLAL1. Seven of these loci exhibited marked sexual dimorphism, all with a stronger effect on WHR in women than men (P for sex-difference 1.9 × 10−3 to 1.2 × 10−13). These findings provide evidence for multiple loci that modulate body fat distribution, independent of overall adiposity, and reveal powerful gene-by-sex interactions.
genome-wide association; waist-hip-ratio; body fat distribution; central obesity; meta-analysis; genetics; visceral adipose tissue; metabolism; body composition; Expression Quantitative Trait Loci; sex difference
Waist-hip ratio (WHR) is a measure of body fat distribution and a predictor of metabolic consequences independent of overall adiposity. WHR is heritable, but few genetic variants influencing this trait have been identified. We conducted a meta-analysis of 32 genome-wide association studies for WHR adjusted for body mass index (comprising up to 77,167 participants), following up 16 loci in an additional 29 studies (comprising up to 113,636 subjects). We identified 13 new loci in or near RSPO3, VEGFA, TBX15-WARS2, NFE2L3, GRB14, DNM3-PIGC, ITPR2-SSPN, LY86, HOXC13, ADAMTS9, ZNRF3-KREMEN1, NISCH-STAB1 and CPEB4 (P = 1.9 × 10−9 to P = 1.8 × 10−40) and the known signal at LYPLAL1. Seven of these loci exhibited marked sexual dimorphism, all with a stronger effect on WHR in women than men (P for sex difference = 1.9 × 10−3 to P = 1.2 × 10−13). These findings provide evidence for multiple loci that modulate body fat distribution independent of overall adiposity and reveal strong gene-by-sex interactions.
Osteoporosis is a complex disorder and commonly leads to fractures in elderly persons. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have become an unbiased approach to identify variations in the genome that potentially affect health. However, the genetic variants identified so far only explain a small proportion of the heritability for complex traits. Due to the modest genetic effect size and inadequate power, true association signals may not be revealed based on a stringent genome-wide significance threshold. Here, we take advantage of SNP and transcript arrays and integrate GWAS and expression signature profiling relevant to the skeletal system in cellular and animal models to prioritize the discovery of novel candidate genes for osteoporosis-related traits, including bone mineral density (BMD) at the lumbar spine (LS) and femoral neck (FN), as well as geometric indices of the hip (femoral neck-shaft angle, NSA; femoral neck length, NL; and narrow-neck width, NW). A two-stage meta-analysis of GWAS from 7,633 Caucasian women and 3,657 men, revealed three novel loci associated with osteoporosis-related traits, including chromosome 1p13.2 (RAP1A, p = 3.6×10−8), 2q11.2 (TBC1D8), and 18q11.2 (OSBPL1A), and confirmed a previously reported region near TNFRSF11B/OPG gene. We also prioritized 16 suggestive genome-wide significant candidate genes based on their potential involvement in skeletal metabolism. Among them, 3 candidate genes were associated with BMD in women. Notably, 2 out of these 3 genes (GPR177, p = 2.6×10−13; SOX6, p = 6.4×10−10) associated with BMD in women have been successfully replicated in a large-scale meta-analysis of BMD, but none of the non-prioritized candidates (associated with BMD) did. Our results support the concept of our prioritization strategy. In the absence of direct biological support for identified genes, we highlighted the efficiency of subsequent functional characterization using publicly available expression profiling relevant to the skeletal system in cellular or whole animal models to prioritize candidate genes for further functional validation.
BMD and hip geometry are two major predictors of osteoporotic fractures, the most severe consequence of osteoporosis in elderly persons. We performed sex-specific genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for BMD at the lumbar spine and femor neck skeletal sites as well as hip geometric indices (NSA, NL, and NW) in the Framingham Osteoporosis Study and then replicated the top findings in two independent studies. Three novel loci were significant: in women, including chromosome 1p13.2 (RAP1A) for NW; in men, 2q11.2 (TBC1D8) for NSA and 18q11.2 (OSBPL1A) for NW. We confirmed a previously reported region on 8q24.12 (TNFRSF11B/OPG) for lumbar spine BMD in women. In addition, we integrated GWAS signals with eQTL in several tissues and publicly available expression signature profiling in cellular and whole-animal models, and prioritized 16 candidate genes/loci based on their potential involvement in skeletal metabolism. Among three prioritized loci (GPR177, SOX6, and CASR genes) associated with BMD in women, GPR177 and SOX6 have been successfully replicated later in a large-scale meta-analysis, but none of the non-prioritized candidates (associated with BMD) did. Our results support the concept of using expression profiling to support the candidacy of suggestive GWAS signals that may contain important genes of interest.
A rich microbial environment in infancy protects against asthma ,  and infections precipitate asthma exacerbations . We compared the airway microbiota at three levels in adult patients with asthma, the related condition of COPD, and controls. We also studied bronchial lavage from asthmatic children and controls.
We identified 5,054 16S rRNA bacterial sequences from 43 subjects, detecting >70% of species present. The bronchial tree was not sterile, and contained a mean of 2,000 bacterial genomes per cm2 surface sampled. Pathogenic Proteobacteria, particularly Haemophilus spp., were much more frequent in bronchi of adult asthmatics or patients with COPD than controls. We found similar highly significant increases in Proteobacteria in asthmatic children. Conversely, Bacteroidetes, particularly Prevotella spp., were more frequent in controls than adult or child asthmatics or COPD patients.
The results show the bronchial tree to contain a characteristic microbiota, and suggest that this microbiota is disturbed in asthmatic airways.
The mammalian epidermis is a continually renewing structure that provides the interface between the organism and an innately hostile environment. The keratinocyte is its principal cell. Keratinocyte proteins form a physical epithelial barrier, protect against microbial damage, and prepare immune responses to danger. Epithelial immunity is disordered in many common diseases and disordered epithelial differentiation underlies many cancers. In order to identify the genes that mediate epithelial development we used a tissue model of the skin derived from primary human keratinocytes. We measured global gene expression in triplicate at five times over the ten days that the keratinocytes took to fully differentiate. We identified 1282 gene transcripts that significantly changed during differentiation (false discovery rate <0.01%). We robustly grouped these transcripts by K-means clustering into modules with distinct temporal expression patterns, shared regulatory motifs, and biological functions. We found a striking cluster of late expressed genes that form the structural and innate immune defences of the epithelial barrier. Gene Ontology analyses showed that undifferentiated keratinocytes were characterised by genes for motility and the adaptive immune response. We systematically identified calcium-binding genes, which may operate with the epidermal calcium gradient to control keratinocyte division during skin repair. The results provide multiple novel insights into keratinocyte biology, in particular providing a comprehensive list of known and previously unrecognised major components of the epidermal barrier. The findings provide a reference for subsequent understanding of how the barrier functions in health and disease.
High levels of serum IgE are considered markers of parasite and helminth exposure. In addition, they are associated with allergic disorders, play a key role in anti-tumoral defence, and are crucial mediators of autoimmune diseases. Total IgE is a strongly heritable trait. In a genome-wide association study (GWAS), we tested 353,569 SNPs for association with serum IgE levels in 1,530 individuals from the population-based KORA S3/F3 study. Replication was performed in four independent population-based study samples (total n = 9,769 individuals). Functional variants in the gene encoding the alpha chain of the high affinity receptor for IgE (FCER1A) on chromosome 1q23 (rs2251746 and rs2427837) were strongly associated with total IgE levels in all cohorts with P values of 1.85×10−20 and 7.08×10−19 in a combined analysis, and in a post-hoc analysis showed additional associations with allergic sensitization (P = 7.78×10−4 and P = 1.95×10−3). The “top” SNP significantly influenced the cell surface expression of FCER1A on basophils, and genome-wide expression profiles indicated an interesting novel regulatory mechanism of FCER1A expression via GATA-2. Polymorphisms within the RAD50 gene on chromosome 5q31 were consistently associated with IgE levels (P values 6.28×10−7−4.46×10−8) and increased the risk for atopic eczema and asthma. Furthermore, STAT6 was confirmed as susceptibility locus modulating IgE levels. In this first GWAS on total IgE FCER1A was identified and replicated as new susceptibility locus at which common genetic variation influences serum IgE levels. In addition, variants within the RAD50 gene might represent additional factors within cytokine gene cluster on chromosome 5q31, emphasizing the need for further investigations in this intriguing region. Our data furthermore confirm association of STAT6 variation with serum IgE levels.
High levels of serum IgE are considered markers of parasite and helminth exposure. In addition, they are associated with allergic disorders, play a key role in anti-tumoral defence, and are crucial mediators of autoimmune diseases. There is strong evidence that the regulation of serum IgE levels is under a strong genetic control. However, despite numerous loci and candidate genes linked and associated with atopy-related traits, very few have been associated consistently with total IgE. This study describes the first large-scale, genome-wide scan on total IgE. By examining >11,000 German individuals from four independent population-based cohorts, we show that functional variants in the gene encoding the alpha chain of the high affinity receptor for IgE (FCER1A) on chromosome 1q23 are strongly associated with total IgE levels. In addition, our data confirm association of STAT6 variation with serum IgE levels, and suggest that variants within the RAD50 gene might represent additional factors within cytokine gene cluster on chromosome 5q31, emphasizing the need for further investigations in this intriguing region.