Both genetic variation at the 17q21 locus and virus-induced respiratory wheezing illnesses are associated with the development of asthma. Our aim was to determine the effects of these two factors on the risk of asthma in the Childhood Origins of Asthma (COAST) and the Copenhagen Prospective Study on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC) birth cohorts.
We tested genotypes at the 17q21 locus for associations with asthma and with human rhinovirus (HRV) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) wheezing illnesses and tested for interactions between 17q21 genotypes and HRV and RSV wheezing illnesses with respect to the risk of asthma. Finally, we examined genotype-specific expression of 17q21 genes in unstimulated and HRV-stimulated peripheral-blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs).
The 17q21 variants were associated with HRV wheezing illnesses in early life, but not with RSV wheezing illnesses. The associations of 17q21 variants with asthma were restricted to children who had had HRV wheezing illnesses, resulting in a significant interaction effect with respect to the risk of asthma. Moreover, the expression levels of ORMDL3 and of GSDMB were significantly increased in HRV-stimulated PBMCs, as compared with unstimulated PBMCs. The expression of these genes was associated with 17q21 variants in both conditions, although the increase with exposure to HRV was not genotype-specific.
Variants at the 17q21 locus were associated with asthma in children who had had HRV wheezing illnesses and with expression of two genes at this locus. The expression levels of both genes increased in response to HRV stimulation, although the relative increase was not associated with the 17q21 genotypes. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health.)
Advances in DNA sequencing technologies have greatly facilitated the discovery of rare genetic variants in the human genome, many of which may contribute to common disease risk. However, evaluating their individual or even collective effects on disease risk requires very large sample sizes, which involves study designs that are often prohibitively expensive. We present an alternative approach for determining genotypes in large numbers of individuals for all variants discovered in the sequence of relatively few individuals. Specifically, we developed a new imputation algorithm that utilizes whole-exome sequencing data from 25 members of the South Dakota Hutterite population, and genome-wide SNP genotypes from >1400 individuals from the same founder population. The algorithm relies on identity-by-descent sharing of phased haplotypes, a different strategy than the linkage disequilibrium methods found in most imputation methods. We imputed genotypes discovered in the sequence data to on average ~77% of chromosomes among the 1400 individuals. Median R2 between imputed and directly genotyped data was > 0.99. As expected, many variants that are vanishingly rare in European populations have risen to larger frequencies in the founder population, and would be amenable to single-SNP analyses.
Exome sequencing; association study; IBD calculation; complex pedigrees; imputation
Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of asthma have consistently implicated the ORM1-like 3 and gasdermin B (ORMDL3-GSDMB), IL33, IL-1 receptor–like 1 and IL-18 receptor 1 (IL1RL1-IL18R1), RAD50-IL13, thymic stromal lymphopoietin and WD repeat domain 36 region (TSLP-WDR36), and HLA-DR/DQ regions.
A GWAS of asthma was performed in a non-Hispanic white population.
A GWAS was performed in 813 Severe Asthma Research Program/Collaborative Studies on the Genetics of Asthma/Chicago Asthma Genetics Study cases and 1564 control subjects. The GWAS results were compared with those of the published GWASs of autoimmune diseases.
Multiple single nucleotide polymorphisms in the TNFAIP3 interacting protein 1 (TNIP1) gene, which interacts with TNFAIP3 and inhibits the TNF-α–induced nuclear factor κB inflammation pathway, were associated with asthma: rs1422673 (P = 3.44 × 10−7) and rs10036748 (P = 1.41 × 10−6, r2 = 0.67). rs1422673 was also associated with asthma in the published GABRIEL (P = .018) and EVE (P = 1.31 × 10−5) studies. The minor allele T of rs20541 in IL13 is the risk allele for asthma but the protective allele for psoriasis. The minor allele T of rs2395185 in HLA-DRA is the risk allele for asthma but the protective allele for ulcerative colitis. The minor allele A of rs2872507 in GSDMB is the protective allele for asthma but the risk allele for rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn disease, and ulcerative colitis. The T allele of rs10036748 in the TNIP1 gene is the minor protective allele for asthma but the minor or major risk allele for systemic lupus erythematosus and systemic sclerosis in non-Hispanic white or Chinese subjects, respectively.
Our study suggests that single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with both asthma and autoimmune diseases might have opposite effects on immunopathogenesis. (J Allergy Clin Immunol 2012;130:861-8.)
Asthma; genetics; genome-wide association study; TNFAIP3 interacting protein 1
We previously reported an interaction between maternal asthma and the child’s HLA-G genotype on the child’s subsequent risk for asthma. The implicated SNP at +3142 disrupted a target site for the microRNA (miR)-152 family. We hypothesized that the interaction effect may be mediated by these miRs
The objective of this study was to test this hypothesis in adults with asthma who are a subset of the same subjects who participated in our earlier family-based studies.
We measured soluble (s)HLA-G concentrations in bronchial alveolar lavage (BAL) fluid (N=36) and plasma (N=57) from adult asthmatics with and without a mother with asthma, and HLA-G and miR-152 family (miR-148a, -148b, and -152) transcript levels in airway epithelial cells from the same individuals.
miR-148b levels were significantly elevated in airway epithelial cells from asthmatics with an asthmatic mother compared to asthmatics without an asthmatic mother, and +3142 genotypes were associated with sHLA-G concentrations in BAL fluid among asthmatic individuals with an asthmatic mother but not among those with a non-asthmatic mother. Neither effect was observed in the plasma (sHLA-G) or white blood cells (miRNA).
These combined results are consistent with +3142 allele-specific targeting of HLA-G by the miR-152 family, and support our hypothesis that miRNA regulation of sHLA-G in the airway is influenced by both the asthma status of the subject’s mother and the subject’s genotype. Moreover, we demonstrate that the effects of maternal asthma on the gene regulatory landscape in the airways of her children persist into adulthood.
Asthma; maternal asthma; microRNA; Human Leukocyte Antigen
Genomic regions with replicated linkage to asthma-related phenotypes likely harbor multiple susceptibility loci with relatively minor effects on disease susceptibility. The 11q13 chromosomal region has repeatedly been linked to asthma with five genes residing in this region with reported replicated associations. Cortactin, an actin-binding protein encoded by the CTTN gene in 11q13, constitutes a key regulator of cytoskeletal dynamics and contractile cell machinery, events facilitated by interaction with myosin light chain kinase; encoded by MYLK, a gene we recently reported as associated with severe asthma in African Americans. To evaluate potential association of CTTN gene variation with asthma susceptibility, CTTN exons and flanking regions were re-sequenced in 48 non-asthmatic multiethnic samples, leading to selection of nine tagging polymorphisms for case-control association studies in individuals of European and African descent. After ancestry adjustments, an intronic variant (rs3802780) was significantly associated with severe asthma (odds ratio [OR]: 1.71; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.20-2.43; p = 0.003) in a joint analysis. Further analyses evidenced independent and additive effects of CTTN and MYLK risk variants for severe asthma susceptibility in African Americans (accumulated OR: 2.93, 95% CI: 1.40-6.13, p = 0.004). These data suggest that CTTN gene variation may contribute to severe asthma and that the combined effects of CTTN and MYLK risk polymorphisms may further increase susceptibility to severe asthma in African Americans harboring both genetic variants.
CTTN; MLCK; cytoskeleton; SNP; asthma
Genetic variants on the X-chromosome could potentially play an important role in some complex traits. However, development of methods for detecting association with X-linked markers has lagged behind that for autosomal markers. We propose methods for case-control association testing with X-chromosome markers in samples with related individuals. Our method, XM, appropriately adjusts for both correlation among relatives and male-female allele copy number differences. Features of XM include: (1) it is applicable to and computationally feasible for completely general combinations of family and case-control designs; (2) it allows for both unaffected controls and controls of unknown phenotype to be included in the same analysis; (3) it can incorporate phenotype information on relatives with missing genotype data; and (4) it adjusts for sex-specific trait prevalence values. We propose two other tests, Xχ and XW, which can also be useful in certain contexts. We derive the best linear unbiased estimator of allele frequency, and its variance, for X-linked markers. In simulation studies with related individuals, we demonstrate the power and validity of the proposed methods. We apply the methods to X-chromosome association analysis of (1) asthma in a Hutterite sample and (2) alcohol dependence in the GAW 14 COGA data. In analysis (1), we demonstrate computational feasibility of XM and the applicability of our robust variance estimator. In analysis (2), we detect significant association, after Bonferroni correction, between alcohol dependence and SNP rs979606 in the MAOA gene, where this gene has previously been found to be associated with substance abuse and antisocial behavior.
X-linked; score test; quasi-likelihood; pedigrees; GWAS
Genetic variants that contribute to asthma susceptibility may be present at varying frequencies in different populations, which is an important consideration and advantage for performing genetic association studies in admixed populations.
To identify asthma-associated loci in African Americans.
We compared local African and European ancestry estimated from dense single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotype data in African American adults with asthma and non-asthmatic controls. Allelic tests of association were performed within the candidate regions identified, correcting for local European admixture.
We identified a significant ancestry association peak on chromosomes 6q. Allelic tests for association within this region identified a SNP (rs1361549) on 6q14.1 that was associated with asthma exclusively in African Americans with local European admixture (OR=2.2). The risk allele is common in Europe (42% in the HapMap CEU) but absent in West Africa (0% in the HapMap YRI), suggesting the allele is present in African Americans due to recent European admixture. We replicated our findings in Puerto Ricans and similarly found that the signal of association is largely specific to individuals who are heterozygous for African and non-African ancestry at 6q14.1. However, we found no evidence for association in European Americans or in Puerto Ricans in the absence of local African ancestry, suggesting that the association with asthma at rs1361549 is due to an environmental or genetic interaction.
We identified a novel asthma-associated locus that is relevant to admixed populations with African ancestry, and highlight the importance of considering local ancestry in genetic association studies of admixed populations.
asthma; population structure; genome-wide association study; admixture mapping; ancestry association testing; admixed populations; African Americans; Puerto Ricans
HLA-G is a nonclassical, class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC) gene that exhibits immunomodulatory properties and likely plays a role in the maintenance of successful pregnancy. In this study, we investigated the role of HLA-G polymorphisms on risk for recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) and on circulating levels of soluble (s)HLA-G in Iraqi women. DNA and plasma were obtained from blood samples collected at 9 to 12 weeks gestation from 50 women with RPL and 50 healthy pregnant women in Basrah province, Iraq. As measured by ELISA, median sHLA-G levels were significantly lower in the RPL cases compared to healthy controls (21.4 vs. 38.8 U/ml, respectively; P = 0.025), and decreased with increasing maternal age (P = 0.0051). However, HLA-G allele and haplotype frequencies did not differ significantly between cases and controls (P values ≥ 0.12 for all tests). In contrast, homozygosity for the C allele (CC) at a tri- allelic promoter polymorphism, −725C/G/T, was associated with lower concentrations of sHLA- G compared to the CG or CT genotypes (median levels 21.1 vs. 40.1 vs. 42.6 U/ml, respectively; P = 0.0089). These results demonstrate that HLA-G genotype influences circulating sHLA-G levels during pregnancy but is not significantly associated with risk of RPL.
HLA-G; recurrent pregnancy loss; soluble HLA-G; HLA-G genotype
Variation in the IL4 gene has been associated with parastic infections, but has not been studied in Bolivians infected with Trypanosoma cruzi. Our results suggest that variation at IL4 influences susceptibility to T. cruzi infection in Bolivians.
Chagas disease; IL4; Trypanosoma cruzi infection; IgE; Bolivians
de novo SNV mutation; autozygosity; mutation rate
We previously reported that paternally-inherited human leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles are a template for women's preference for male odors (P = 0.0007). However, it has been suggested that sequence variation in a nearby olfactory receptor (OR) cluster on chromosome 6p influences smell preference. To determine if the HLA-linked OR genes contribute to previously observed HLA-mediated behaviors, we use the odor preference data from our earlier study in combination with a new resequencing study of four functional HLA-linked OR genes in the same subjects. Our results indicate that OR alleles in the genes surveyed are not in linkage disequilibrium (LD) with HLA variation and do not explain the previous findings of HLA-associated odor preference.
Understanding and modeling genetic or nongenetic factors that influence susceptibility to complex traits has been the focus of many genetic studies. Large pedigrees with known complex structure may be advantageous in epidemiological studies since they can significantly increase the number of factors whose influence on the trait can be estimated. We propose a likelihood approach, developed in the context of generalized linear mixed models, for modeling dichotomous traits based on data from hundreds of individuals all of whom are potentially correlated through either a known pedigree or an estimated covariance matrix. Our approach is based on a hierarchical model where we first assess the probability of each individual having the trait and then formulate a likelihood assuming conditional independence of individuals. The advantage of our formulation is that it easily incorporates information from pertinent covariates as fixed effects and at the same time takes into account the correlation between individuals that share genetic background or other random effects. The high dimensionality of the integration involved in the likelihood prohibits exact computations. Instead, an automated Monte Carlo expectation maximization algorithm is employed for obtaining the maximum likelihood estimates of the model parameters. Through a simulation study we demonstrate that our method can provide reliable estimates of the model parameters when the sample size is close to 500. Implementation of our method to data from a pedigree of 491 Hutterites evaluated for Type 2 diabetes (T2D) reveal evidence of a strong genetic component to T2D risk, particularly for younger and leaner cases.
binary trait; genetic variance components; GLMMs; MCEM; diabetes; complex pedigrees
Gonadal failure, along with early pregnancy loss and perinatal death, may be an important filter that limits the propagation of harmful mutations in the human population. We hypothesized that men with spermatogenic impairment, a disease with unknown genetic architecture and a common cause of male infertility, are enriched for rare deleterious mutations compared to men with normal spermatogenesis. After assaying genomewide SNPs and CNVs in 323 Caucasian men with idiopathic spermatogenic impairment and more than 1,100 controls, we estimate that each rare autosomal deletion detected in our study multiplicatively changes a man's risk of disease by 10% (OR 1.10 [1.04–1.16], p<2×10−3), rare X-linked CNVs by 29%, (OR 1.29 [1.11–1.50], p<1×10−3), and rare Y-linked duplications by 88% (OR 1.88 [1.13–3.13], p<0.03). By contrasting the properties of our case-specific CNVs with those of CNV callsets from cases of autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and intellectual disability, we propose that the CNV burden in spermatogenic impairment is distinct from the burden of large, dominant mutations described for neurodevelopmental disorders. We identified two patients with deletions of DMRT1, a gene on chromosome 9p24.3 orthologous to the putative sex determination locus of the avian ZW chromosome system. In an independent sample of Han Chinese men, we identified 3 more DMRT1 deletions in 979 cases of idiopathic azoospermia and none in 1,734 controls, and found none in an additional 4,519 controls from public databases. The combined results indicate that DMRT1 loss-of-function mutations are a risk factor and potential genetic cause of human spermatogenic failure (frequency of 0.38% in 1306 cases and 0% in 7,754 controls, p = 6.2×10−5). Our study identifies other recurrent CNVs as potential causes of idiopathic azoospermia and generates hypotheses for directing future studies on the genetic basis of male infertility and IVF outcomes.
Infertility is a disease that prevents the transmission of DNA from one generation to the next, and consequently it has been difficult to study the genetics of infertility using classical human genetics methods. Now, new technologies for screening entire genomes for rare and patient-specific mutations are revolutionizing our understanding of reproductively lethal diseases. Here, we apply techniques for variation discovery to study a condition called azoospermia, the failure to produce sperm. Large deletions of the Y chromosome are the primary known genetic risk factor for azoospermia, and genetic testing for these deletions is part of the standard treatment for this condition. We have screened over 300 men with azoospermia for rare deletions and duplications, and find an enrichment of these mutations throughout the genome compared to unaffected men. Our results indicate that sperm production is affected by mutations beyond the Y chromosome and will motivate whole-genome analyses of larger numbers of men with impaired spermatogenesis. Our finding of an enrichment of rare deleterious mutations in men with poor sperm production also raises the possibility that the slightly increased rate of birth defects reported in children conceived by in vitro fertilization may have a genetic basis.
Asthma is a complex disease characterized by sex-specific differences in incidence, prevalence and severity, but little is known about the molecular basis of these sex differences. Objective: To investigate the genetic architecture of sex differences in asthma risk, we evaluated i) associations between polymorphisms in the interferon-gamma (IFNG) gene and childhood onset asthma in combined and sex-specific samples, and ii) interactions between polymorphisms and sex on asthma risk.
Main and sex-interaction effects of IFNG genetic diversity on asthma risk and IFN-γ levels were examined in a birth cohort of children at high risk for asthma and allergic diseases. Replication of the genetic association was assessed in an independent sample of asthma cases.
Significant genotype-by-sex interactions on asthma were observed for two IFNG SNPs, rs2069727 and rs2430561, which were in strong linkage disequilibrium with each other. In contrast, none of the ten IFNG SNPs showed significant main effects on asthma. The observed genotype-by-sex interaction on asthma was characterized by non-additivity, i.e. heterozygote boys had the highest risk for asthma, while heterozygote girls had the lowest risk. The interaction effect was robust to other asthma risk factors but was limited to children who experienced wheezing illnesses with viral infections during the first three years of life. Genotype-by-sex interactions were also observed in IFN-γ response to LPS in the first year of life. Finally, the sex interaction effect was replicated in an independent population of childhood asthma cases.
These results provide insight into the genetic basis of sex differences in asthma and highlight the potential importance of interactions among sex, genotype, and environmental factors in asthma pathogenesis.
IFN-γ; asthma; children; sex differences; single nucleotide polymorphism; association study
The evolutionary history of variation in the human Rh blood group system, determined by variants in the RHD and RHCE genes, has long been an unresolved puzzle in human genetics. Prior to medical treatments and interventions developed in the last century, the D-positive children of D-negative women were at risk for hemolytic disease of the newborn, if the mother produced anti-D antibodies following sensitization to the blood of a previous D-positive child. Given the deleterious fitness consequences of this disease, the appreciable frequencies in European populations of the responsible RHD gene deletion variant (for example, 0.43 in our study) seem surprising. In this study, we used new molecular and genomic data generated from four HapMap population samples to test the idea that positive selection for an as-of-yet unknown fitness benefit of the RHD deletion may have offset the otherwise negative fitness effects of hemolytic disease of the newborn. We found no evidence that positive natural selection affected the frequency of the RHD deletion. Thus, the initial rise to intermediate frequency of the RHD deletion in European populations may simply be explained by genetic drift/ founder effect, or by an older or more complex sweep that we are insufficiently powered to detect. However, our simulations recapitulate previous findings that selection on the RHD deletion is frequency dependent, and weak or absent near 0.5. Therefore, once such a frequency was achieved, it could have been maintained by a relatively small amount of genetic drift. We unexpectedly observed evidence for positive selection on the C allele of RHCE in non-African populations (on chromosomes with intact copies of the RHD gene) in the form of an unusually high FST value and the high frequency of a single haplotype carrying the C allele. RhCE function is not well understood, but the C/c antigenic variant is clinically relevant and can result in hemolytic disease of the newborn, albeit much less commonly and severely than that related to the D-negative blood type. Therefore, the potential fitness benefits of the RHCE C allele are currently unknown but merit further exploration.
Blood group polymorphism; copy number variation; human evolution; balancing selection
The genetic mechanisms underlying asthma remain unclear. Increased permeability of the microvasculature is a feature of asthma and the sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor, S1PR1, is an essential participant regulating lung vascular integrity and responses to lung inflammation.
We explored the contribution of polymorphisms in the S1PR1 gene (S1PR1) to asthma susceptibility.
A combination of gene re-sequencing for SNP discovery, case-control association, functional evaluation of associated SNPs, and protein immunochemistry studies was utilized.
Immunohistochemistry studies demonstrated significantly decreased S1PR1 protein expression in pulmonary vessels in asthmatic lungs compared to non-asthmatic individuals (p<0.05). Direct DNA sequencing of 27 multiethnic samples identified 39 S1PR1 variants (18 novel SNPs). Association studies were performed based on genotyping results from cosmopolitan tagging SNPs in three case-control cohorts from Chicago and New York totaling 1061 subjects (502 cases and 559 controls). Promoter SNP rs2038366 (−1557G/T) was found to be associated with asthma (p=0.03) in European Americans. In African Americans, an association was found for both asthma and severe asthma for intronic SNP rs3753194 (c.−164+170A/G) (p=0.006 and p=0.040, respectively) and for promoter SNP rs59317557 (−532C/G) with severe asthma (p=0.028). Consistent with predicted in silico functionality, alleles of promoter SNPs rs2038366 (−1557G/T) and rs59317557 (−532C/G) influenced the activity of a luciferase S1PR1 reporter vector in transfected endothelial cells exposed to growth factors (EGF, PDGF, VEGF) known to be increased in asthmatic airways.
These data provide strong support for a role for S1PR1 gene variants in asthma susceptibility and severity.
Our results indicate S1PR1 is a novel asthma candidate gene and an attractive target for future therapeutic strategies.
This study identified novel polymorphisms in S1PR1, revealed the functional implications of S1PR1 genetic variants in different populations, and their association with asthma susceptibility and severity.
asthma; sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor 1; single nucleotide polymorphism; promoter activity
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive (AR) neuromuscular disease that is one of the most common lethal genetic disorders in children, with carrier frequencies as high as ∼1 in 35 in US Whites. As part of our genetic studies in the Hutterites from South Dakota, we identified a large 22 Mb run of homozygosity, spanning the SMA locus in an affected child, of which 10 Mb was also homozygous in three affected Hutterites from Montana, supporting a single founder origin for the mutation. We developed a haplotype-based method for identifying carriers of the SMN1 deletion that leveraged existing genome-wide SNP genotype data for ∼1400 Hutterites. In combination with two direct PCR-based assays, we identified 176 carriers of the SMN1 deletion, one asymptomatic homozygous adult and three carriers of a de novo deletion. This corresponds to a carrier frequency of one in eight (12.5%) in the South Dakota Hutterites, representing the highest carrier frequency reported to date for SMA and for an AR disease in the Hutterite population. Lastly, we show that 26 SNPs can be used to predict SMA carrier status in the Hutterites, with 99.86% specificity and 99.71% sensitivity.
spinal muscular atrophy; Hutterites; founder population; haplotype; carrier frequency; carrier screening
Asthma prevalence is increasing worldwide in most populations, likely due to a combination of heritable factors and environmental changes. Curiously, however, some European farming populations are protected from asthma, which has been attributed to their traditional lifestyles and farming practices.
We conducted population-based studies of asthma and atopy in the Hutterites of South Dakota, a communal farming population, to assess temporal trends in asthma and atopy prevalence and describe risk factors for asthma.
We studied 1325 Hutterites (ages 6–91 years) at two time points from 1996 to 1997 and from 2006 to 2009 using asthma questionnaires, pulmonary function and methacholine bronchoprovocation tests, and measures of atopy.
The overall prevalence of asthma increased over the 10 to 13 year study period (7.5% to 11.1%, P = 0.049), whereas the overall prevalence of atopy did not change (45.0% to 44.8%, P = 0.95). Surprisingly, the rise in asthma was only among females (5.8% to 11.2%, P = 0.02); the prevalence among males remained largely unchanged (9.4% to 10.9%, P = 0.57). Atopy, which was not associated with asthma risk in 1996 to 1997, was the strongest risk factor for asthma among Hutterites studied in 2006 to 2009 (P = 0.003).
Asthma has increased over a 10 to 13 year period among Hutterite females and atopy has become a significant risk factor for asthma, suggesting a change in environmental exposures that are either sex-limited or that elicit a sex-specific response.
asthma; atopy; farming exposures; prevalence
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.
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.
Asthma and allergy are common conditions with complex etiologies involving both genetic and environmental contributions. Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and meta-analyses of GWAS have begun to shed light on both common and distinct pathways that contribute to asthma and allergic diseases. Associations with variation in genes encoding the epithelial cell-derived cytokines, interleukin-33 (IL-33) and thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP), and the IL1RL1 gene encoding the IL-33 receptor, ST2, highlight the central roles for innate immune response pathways that promote the activation and differentiation of T-helper 2 (Th2) cells in the pathogenesis of both asthma and allergic diseases. In contrast, variation at the 17q21 asthma locus, encoding the ORMDL3 and GSDML genes, is specifically associated with risk for childhood onset asthma. These and other genetic findings are providing a list of well-validated asthma and allergy susceptibility genes that are expanding our understanding of the common and unique biological pathways that are dysregulated in these related conditions. Ongoing studies will continue to broaden our understanding of asthma and allergy and unravel the mechanisms for the development of these complex traits.
association studies; linkage studies; GWAS; asthma; allergic disease; atopy
Children of a heterozygous parent are expected to carry either allele with equal probability. Exceptions can occur, however, due to meiotic drive, competition among gametes, or viability selection, which we collectively term “transmission distortion” (TD). Although there are several well-characterized examples of these phenomena, their existence in humans remains unknown. We therefore performed a genome-wide scan for TD by applying the transmission disequilibrium test (TDT) genome-wide to three large sets of human pedigrees of European descent: the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), a founder population of European origin (HUTT), and a subset of the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE). Genotyping error is an important confounder in this type of analysis. In FHS and HUTT, despite extensive quality control, we did not find sufficient evidence to exclude genotyping error in the strongest signals. In AGRE, however, many signals extended across multiple SNPs, a pattern highly unlikely to arise from genotyping error. We identified several candidate regions in this data set, notably a locus in 10q26.13 displaying a genome-wide significant TDT in combined female and male transmissions and a signature of recent positive selection, as well as a paternal TD signal in 6p21.1, the same region in which a significant TD signal was previously observed in 30 European males. Neither region replicated in FHS, however, and the paternal signal was not visible in sperm competition assays or as allelic imbalance in sperm. In maternal transmissions, we detected no strong signals near centromeres or telomeres, the regions predicted to be most susceptible to female-specific meiotic drive, but we found a significant enrichment of top signals among genes involved in cell junctions. These results illustrate both the potential benefits and the challenges of using the TDT to study transmission distortion and provide candidates for investigation in future studies.
Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) provide a conveniently accessible and renewable resource for functional genomic studies in humans. The ability to accumulate multidimensional data pertaining to the same individual cell lines, from complete genomic sequences to detailed gene regulatory profiles, further enhances the utility of LCLs as a model system. A lingering concern, however, is that the changes associated with EBV transformation of B cells reduce the usefulness of LCLs as a surrogate model for primary tissues. To evaluate the validity of this concern, we compared global gene expression and methylation profiles between CD20+ primary B cells sampled from six individuals and six independent replicates of transformed LCLs derived from each sample. These data allowed us to obtain a detailed catalog of the genes and pathways whose regulation is affected by EBV transformation. We found that the expression levels and promoter methylation profiles of more than half of the studied genes were affected by the EBV transformation, including enrichments of genes involved in transcription regulation, cell cycle and immune response. However, we show that most of the differences in gene expression levels between LCLs and B cells are of small magnitude, and that LCLs can often recapitulate the naturally occurring gene expression variation in primary B cells. Thus, our observations suggest that inference of the genetic architecture that underlies regulatory variation in LCLs can typically be generalized to primary B cells. In contrast, inference based on functional studies in LCLs may be more limited to the cell lines.
Exome sequencing is a powerful tool for discovery of the Mendelian disease genes. Previously, we reported a novel locus for autosomal recessive non-syndromic mental retardation (NSMR) in a consanguineous family [Nolan, D.K., Chen, P., Das, S., Ober, C. and Waggoner, D. (2008) Fine mapping of a locus for nonsyndromic mental retardation on chromosome 19p13. Am. J. Med. Genet. A, 146A, 1414–1422]. Using linkage and homozygosity mapping, we previously localized the gene to chromosome 19p13. The parents of this sibship were recently included in an exome sequencing project. Using a series of filters, we narrowed the putative causal mutation to a single variant site that segregated with NSMR: the mutation was homozygous in five affected siblings but in none of eight unaffected siblings. This mutation causes a substitution of a leucine for a highly conserved proline at amino acid 182 in TECR (trans-2,3-enoyl-CoA reductase), a synaptic glycoprotein. Our results reveal the value of massively parallel sequencing for identification of novel disease genes that could not be found using traditional approaches and identifies only the seventh causal mutation for autosomal recessive NSMR.
Many environmental risk factors for common, complex human diseases have been revealed by epidemiologic studies, but how genotypes at specific loci modulate individual responses to environmental risk factors is largely unknown. Gene-environment interactions will be missed in genome-wide association studies and may account for some of the ‘missing heritability’ for these diseases. In this review, we focus on asthma as a model disease for studying gene-environment interactions because of relatively large numbers of candidate gene-environment interactions with asthma risk in the literature. Identifying these interactions using genome-wide approaches poses formidable methodological problems and elucidating molecular mechanisms for these interactions has been challenging. We suggest that studying gene-environment interactions in animal models, while more tractable, is not likely to shed light on the genetic architecture of human diseases. Lastly, we propose avenues for future studies to find gene-environment interactions.