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1.  Ethnic-specific associations of rare and low-frequency DNA sequence variants with asthma 
Nature Communications  2015;6:5965.
Common variants at many loci have been robustly associated with asthma but explain little of the overall genetic risk. Here we investigate the role of rare (<1%) and low-frequency (1–5%) variants using the Illumina HumanExome BeadChip array in 4,794 asthma cases, 4,707 non-asthmatic controls and 590 case–parent trios representing European Americans, African Americans/African Caribbeans and Latinos. Our study reveals one low-frequency missense mutation in the GRASP gene that is associated with asthma in the Latino sample (P=4.31 × 10−6; OR=1.25; MAF=1.21%) and two genes harbouring functional variants that are associated with asthma in a gene-based analysis: GSDMB at the 17q12–21 asthma locus in the Latino and combined samples (P=7.81 × 10−8 and 4.09 × 10−8, respectively) and MTHFR in the African ancestry sample (P=1.72 × 10−6). Our results suggest that associations with rare and low-frequency variants are ethnic specific and not likely to explain a significant proportion of the ‘missing heritability’ of asthma.
Common variants account for only a small amount of the heritable risk for developing asthma. Using a meta-analysis approach, Igartua et al. identify one low-frequency missense mutation and two genes with functional variants that are associated with asthma, but only in specific ethnic groups.
PMCID: PMC4309441  PMID: 25591454
2.  A Multiple Splitting Approach to Linkage Analysis in Large Pedigrees Identifies a Linkage to Asthma on Chromosome 12 
Genetic epidemiology  2009;33(3):207-216.
Large genealogies are potentially very informative for linkage analysis. However, the software available for exact nonparametric multipoint linkage analysis is limited with respect to the complexity of the families it can handle. A solution is to split the large pedigrees into sub-families meeting complexity constraints. Different methods have been proposed to “best” split large genealogies. Here, we propose a new procedure in which linkage is performed on several carefully chosen sub-pedigree sets from the genealogy instead of using just a single sub-pedigree set. Our multiple splitting procedure capitalizes on the sensitivity of linkage results to family structure and has been designed to control computational feasibility and global type I error. We describe and apply this procedure to the extreme case of the highly complex Hutterite pedigree and use it to perform a genome-wide linkage analysis on asthma. The detection of a genome-wide significant linkage for asthma on chromosome 12q21 illustrates the potential of this multiple splitting approach.
PMCID: PMC4300518  PMID: 18839415
pedigree breaking; complex pedigrees; asthma; Hutterite
3.  A genomewide screen for chronic rhinosinusitis genes identifies a locus on chromosome 7q 
The Laryngoscope  2008;118(11):2067-2072.
Chronic rhinosinusitis is an important public health problem with substantial impact on patient quality of life and health care costs. We hypothesized that genetic variation may be one factor that affects this disease.
To identify genetic variation underlying susceptibility to chronic rhinosinusitis using a genome-wide approach.
We studied a religious isolate that practices a communal lifestyle and shares common environmental exposures. Using physical examination, medical interviews, and a review of medical records, we identified 8 individuals with chronic rhinosinusitis out of 291 screened. These 8 individuals were related to each other in a single 60 member, 9 generation pedigree. A genome-wide screen for loci influencing susceptibility to chronic rhinosinusitis using 1123 genome-wide markers was conducted.
The largest linkage peak (P = 0.0023; 127.15 cM, equivalent to LOD=2.01) was on chromosome 7q31.1-7q32.1, 7q31 (127.15 cM; 1-LOD support region: 115cM to 135cM) and included the CFTR locus. Genotyping of 38 mutations in the CFTR gene did not reveal variation accounting for this linkage signal.
Understanding the genes involved in chronic rhinosinusitis may lead to improvements in its diagnosis and treatment. Our results represent the first genome-wide screen for chronic rhinosinusitis and suggest that a locus on 7q31.1-7q32.1 influences disease susceptibility. This may be the CFTR gene or another nearby locus.
PMCID: PMC4288474  PMID: 18622306
Chronic rhinosinusitis; Genetics; Linkage; Mapping; Polymorphism; Cystic fibrosis
4.  Levels of soluble HLA-G are increased in asthmatic airways 
The European respiratory journal  2010;35(4):925-927.
PMCID: PMC4285585  PMID: 20356990
HLA-G; airway epithelium; bronchoalveolar lavage; asthma
5.  Genome-Wide Association Study of Lung Function Phenotypes in a Founder Population 
Lung function is a long-term predictor of mortality and morbidity.
We sought to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with lung function.
We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), and FEV1/FVC in 1,144 Hutterites aged 6–89 years, who are members of a founder population of European descent. We performed least absolute shrinkage and selection operation (LASSO) regression to select the minimum set of SNPs that best predict FEV1/FVC in the Hutterites and used the GRAIL algorithm to mine the Gene Ontology database for evidence of functional connections between genes near the predictive SNPs.
Our GWAS identified significant associations between FEV1/FVC and SNPs at the THSD4-UACA-TLE3 locus on chromosome 15q23 (P = 5.7x10−8 ~ 3.4x10−9). Nine SNPs at or near four additional loci had P-values < 10−5 with FEV1/FVC. There were only two SNPs with P-values < 10−5 for FEV1 or FVC. We found nominal levels of significance with SNPs at 9 of the 27 previously reported loci associated with lung function measures. Among a predictive set of 80 SNPs, six loci were identified that had a significant degree of functional connectivity (GRAIL P < 0.05), including three clusters of β-defensin genes, two chemokine genes (CCL18 and CXCL12), and TNFRSF13B.
This study identifies genome-wide significant associations and replicates results of previous GWAS. Multimarker modeling implicated for the first time common variation in genes involved in anti-microbial immunity in airway mucosa influences lung function.
PMCID: PMC4270121  PMID: 23932459
6.  Blood Groups in the Species Survival Plan®, European Endangered Species Program, and Managed in situ Populations of Bonobo (Pan paniscus), Common Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), Gorilla (Gorilla ssp.), and Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus ssp.) 
Zoo biology  2010;30(4):427-444.
Blood groups of humans and great apes long have been considered similar although are not interchangeable between species. In this study, human monoclonal antibody technology was used to assign human ABO blood groups to whole blood samples from great apes housed in North American and European zoos and in situ managed populations, as a practical means to assist blood transfusion situations for these species. From a subset of each of the species (bonobo, common chimpanzee, gorilla, and orangutans), DNA sequence analysis was performed to determine blood group genotype. Bonobo and common chimpanzee populations were predominantly group A which concurred with historic literature and was confirmed by genotyping. In agreement with historic literature, a smaller number of the common chimpanzees sampled were group O although this O blood group was more often present in wild-origin animals as compared to zoo-born animals. Gorilla blood groups were inconclusive by monoclonal antibody techniques and by genetic studies were inconsistent with any known human blood group. As the genus and specifically the Bornean species, orangutans were identified with all human blood groups, including O, which had not been reported previously. Following this study, it was concluded that blood groups of bonobo, common chimpanzees, and some orangutans can be reliably assessed by human monoclonal antibody technology. However, this technique was not reliable for gorilla or orangutans other than those with blood group A. Even in those species with reliable blood group detection, blood transfusion preparation must include cross-matching to minimize adverse reactions for the patient.
PMCID: PMC4258062  PMID: 20853409
ABO; blood typing; cross-matching; great apes; transfusion
7.  A Shared Founder Mutation Underlies Restrictive Dermopathy in Old Colony (Dutch-German) Mennonite and Hutterite Patients in North America 
PMCID: PMC4247856  PMID: 22495976
restrictive dermopathy; tight skin contracture syndrome; laminopathy; lethal; Hutterite; Mennonite; ZMPSTE24
8.  Shades of gray: A comparison of linkage disequilibrium between Hutterites and Europeans 
Genetic epidemiology  2010;34(2):133-139.
Founder or isolated populations have advantages for genetic studies due to decreased genetic and environmental heterogeneity. However, whereas longer range linkage disequilibrium (LD) in these populations is expected to facilitate gene localization, extensive LD may actually limit the ability for gene discovery. The North American Hutterite population is one of the best characterized young founder populations and members of this isolate have been the subjects of our studies of complex traits, including fertility, asthma and cardiovascular disease, for >20 years. Here, we directly assess the patterns and extent of global LD using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotypes with minor allele frequencies (MAFs) ≥5% from the Affymetrix GeneChip® Mapping 500K array in 60 relatively unrelated Hutterites and 60 unrelated Europeans (HapMap CEU). Although LD among some marker pairs extends further in the Hutterites than in Europeans, the pattern of LD and minor allele frequencies are surprisingly similar. These results indicate that 1) identifying disease genes should be no more difficult in the Hutterites than in outbred European populations, 2) the same common susceptibility alleles for complex diseases should be present in the Hutterites and outbred European populations, and 3) imputation algorithms based on HapMap CEU should be applicable to the Hutterites.
PMCID: PMC4238926  PMID: 19697328
9.  The Effect of Freeze-Thaw Cycles on Gene Expression Levels in Lymphoblastoid Cell Lines 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107166.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) are a widely used 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. However, the extent to which LCLs are a faithful model system is relatively unknown. We have previously shown that gene expression profiles of newly established LCLs maintain a strong individual component. Here, we extend our study to investigate the effect of freeze-thaw cycles on gene expression patterns in mature LCLs, especially in the context of inter-individual variation in gene expression. We report a profound difference in the gene expression profiles of newly established and mature LCLs. Once newly established LCLs undergo a freeze-thaw cycle, the individual specific gene expression signatures become much less pronounced as the gene expression levels in LCLs from different individuals converge to a more uniform profile, which reflects a mature transformed B cell phenotype. We found that previously identified eQTLs are enriched among the relatively few genes whose regulations in mature LCLs maintain marked individual signatures. We thus conclude that while insight drawn from gene regulatory studies in mature LCLs may generally not be affected by the artificial nature of the LCL model system, many aspects of primary B cell biology cannot be observed and studied in mature LCL cultures.
PMCID: PMC4156430  PMID: 25192014
10.  Whole-Genome Sequencing of Individuals from a Founder Population Identifies Candidate Genes for Asthma 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104396.
Asthma is a complex genetic disease caused by a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors. We sought to test classes of genetic variants largely missed by genome-wide association studies (GWAS), including copy number variants (CNVs) and low-frequency variants, by performing whole-genome sequencing (WGS) on 16 individuals from asthma-enriched and asthma-depleted families. The samples were obtained from an extended 13-generation Hutterite pedigree with reduced genetic heterogeneity due to a small founding gene pool and reduced environmental heterogeneity as a result of a communal lifestyle. We sequenced each individual to an average depth of 13-fold, generated a comprehensive catalog of genetic variants, and tested the most severe mutations for association with asthma. We identified and validated 1960 CNVs, 19 nonsense or splice-site single nucleotide variants (SNVs), and 18 insertions or deletions that were out of frame. As follow-up, we performed targeted sequencing of 16 genes in 837 cases and 540 controls of Puerto Rican ancestry and found that controls carry a significantly higher burden of mutations in IL27RA (2.0% of controls; 0.23% of cases; nominal p = 0.004; Bonferroni p = 0.21). We also genotyped 593 CNVs in 1199 Hutterite individuals. We identified a nominally significant association (p = 0.03; Odds ratio (OR) = 3.13) between a 6 kbp deletion in an intron of NEDD4L and increased risk of asthma. We genotyped this deletion in an additional 4787 non-Hutterite individuals (nominal p = 0.056; OR = 1.69). NEDD4L is expressed in bronchial epithelial cells, and conditional knockout of this gene in the lung in mice leads to severe inflammation and mucus accumulation. Our study represents one of the early instances of applying WGS to complex disease with a large environmental component and demonstrates how WGS can identify risk variants, including CNVs and low-frequency variants, largely untested in GWAS.
PMCID: PMC4130548  PMID: 25116239
11.  Integrated genome-wide association, coexpression network, and expression single nucleotide polymorphism analysis identifies novel pathway in allergic rhinitis 
BMC Medical Genomics  2014;7:48.
Allergic rhinitis is a common disease whose genetic basis is incompletely explained. We report an integrated genomic analysis of allergic rhinitis.
We performed genome wide association studies (GWAS) of allergic rhinitis in 5633 ethnically diverse North American subjects. Next, we profiled gene expression in disease-relevant tissue (peripheral blood CD4+ lymphocytes) collected from subjects who had been genotyped. We then integrated the GWAS and gene expression data using expression single nucleotide (eSNP), coexpression network, and pathway approaches to identify the biologic relevance of our GWAS.
GWAS revealed ethnicity-specific findings, with 4 genome-wide significant loci among Latinos and 1 genome-wide significant locus in the GWAS meta-analysis across ethnic groups. To identify biologic context for these results, we constructed a coexpression network to define modules of genes with similar patterns of CD4+ gene expression (coexpression modules) that could serve as constructs of broader gene expression. 6 of the 22 GWAS loci with P-value ≤ 1x10−6 tagged one particular coexpression module (4.0-fold enrichment, P-value 0.0029), and this module also had the greatest enrichment (3.4-fold enrichment, P-value 2.6 × 10−24) for allergic rhinitis-associated eSNPs (genetic variants associated with both gene expression and allergic rhinitis). The integrated GWAS, coexpression network, and eSNP results therefore supported this coexpression module as an allergic rhinitis module. Pathway analysis revealed that the module was enriched for mitochondrial pathways (8.6-fold enrichment, P-value 4.5 × 10−72).
Our results highlight mitochondrial pathways as a target for further investigation of allergic rhinitis mechanism and treatment. Our integrated approach can be applied to provide biologic context for GWAS of other diseases.
PMCID: PMC4127082  PMID: 25085501
Genome-wide association study; Allergic rhinitis; Coexpression network; Expression single-nucleotide polymorphism; Coexpression module; Pathway; Mitochondria; Hay fever; Allergy
12.  Maternal microchimerism protects against the development of asthma 
Maternal asthma and child’s sex are among the most significant and reproducible risk factors for the development of asthma. Although the mechanisms for these effects are unknown, they likely involve non-classical genetic mechanisms. One such mechanism could involve the transfer and persistence of maternal cells to her offspring, a common occurrence known as maternal microchimerism (MMc). MMc has been associated with many autoimmune diseases, but has not been investigated for a role in asthma or allergic disease.
We hypothesized that some of the observed risks for asthma may be due to different rates of transmission or persistence of maternal cells to children of mothers with asthma compared to children of mothers without asthma, or to sons compared to daughters. We further hypothesized that rates of MMc differ between children with and without asthma.
We tested these hypotheses in 317 subjects from three independent cohorts using a real-time quantitative PCR assay to detect a non-inherited HLA allele in the child.
MMc was detected in 20.5% of subjects (range 16.8% – 27.1% in the three cohorts). We observed lower rates of asthma among MMc positive subjects compared to MMc negative subjects (odds ratio [OR] 0.38, 95% CI 0.19, 0.79; P=0.029). Neither maternal asthma nor sex of the child was a significant predictor of MMc in the child (P = 0.81 and 0.15, respectively).
Our results suggest for the first time that MMc may protect against the development of asthma.
PMCID: PMC3700564  PMID: 23434286
Microchimerism; maternal; asthma
13.  Prenatal Tobacco Smoke Exposure Is Associated with Childhood DNA CpG Methylation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99716.
Smoking while pregnant is associated with a myriad of negative health outcomes in the child. Some of the detrimental effects may be due to epigenetic modifications, although few studies have investigated this hypothesis in detail.
To characterize site-specific epigenetic modifications conferred by prenatal smoking exposure within asthmatic children.
Using Illumina HumanMethylation27 microarrays, we estimated the degree of methylation at 27,578 distinct DNA sequences located primarily in gene promoters using whole blood DNA samples from the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) subset of Asthma BRIDGE childhood asthmatics (n = 527) ages 5–12 with prenatal smoking exposure data available. Using beta-regression, we screened loci for differential methylation related to prenatal smoke exposure, adjusting for gender, age and clinical site, and accounting for multiple comparisons by FDR.
Of 27,578 loci evaluated, 22,131 (80%) passed quality control assessment and were analyzed. Sixty-five children (12%) had a history of prenatal smoke exposure. At an FDR of 0.05, we identified 19 CpG loci significantly associated with prenatal smoke, of which two replicated in two independent populations. Exposure was associated with a 2% increase in mean CpG methylation in FRMD4A (p = 0.01) and Cllorf52 (p = 0.001) compared to no exposure. Four additional genes, XPNPEP1, PPEF2, SMPD3 and CRYGN, were nominally associated in at least one replication group.
These data suggest that prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke is associated with reproducible epigenetic changes that persist well into childhood. However, the biological significance of these altered loci remains unknown.
PMCID: PMC4070909  PMID: 24964093
14.  Sequencing the IL4 locus in African Americans implicates rare noncoding variants in asthma susceptibility 
Common genetic variations in the IL4 gene have been associated with asthma and atopy in European and Asian populations, but not in African Americans.
Because populations of African descent have increased levels of genetic variation compared to other populations, particularly with respect to low frequency or rare variants, we hypothesized that rare variants in the IL4 gene contribute to the development of asthma in African Americans.
To test this hypothesis, we sequenced the IL4 locus in 72 African Americans with asthma and 70 African American non-asthmatic controls to identify novel and rare polymorphisms in the IL4 gene that may be contributing to asthma susceptibility.
We report an excess of private non-coding SNPs in the subjects with asthma compared to non-asthmatic control subjects (P=0.031). Tajima’s D is significantly more negative in cases (−0.375) compared to controls (−0.073) (P=0.04), reflecting an excess of rare variants in the cases.
Our findings indicate that SNPs at the IL4 locus that are potentially exclusive to African Americans are associated with susceptibility to asthma. Only three of the 26 private SNPs (i.e., SNPs present only in the cases or only in the controls) are tagged by single SNPs on one of the common genotyping platforms used in genome-wide association studies. We also find that most of the private SNPs cannot be reliably imputed, highlighting the importance of sequencing to identify genetic variants contributing to common diseases in African Americans.
PMCID: PMC3984460  PMID: 19910025
Rare variants; Private alleles; Asthma; IL4; IgE; African Americans
15.  A Meta-analysis of Genome-wide Association Studies for Serum Total IgE in Diverse Study Populations 
Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is both a marker and mediator of allergic inflammation. Despite reported differences in serum total IgE levels by race-ethnicity, African American and Latino individuals have not been well represented in genetic studies of total IgE.
To identify the genetic predictors of serum total IgE levels.
We used genome wide association (GWA) data from 4,292 individuals (2,469 African Americans, 1,564 European Americans, and 259 Latinos) in the EVE Asthma Genetics Consortium. Tests for association were performed within each cohort by race-ethnic group (i.e., African American, Latino, and European American) and asthma status. The resulting p-values were meta-analyzed accounting for sample size and direction of effect. Top single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) associations from the meta-analysis were reassessed in six additional cohorts comprising 5,767 individuals.
We identified 10 unique regions where the combined association statistic was associated with total serum IgE levels (P-value <5.0×10−6) and the minor allele frequency was ≥5% in two or more population groups. Variant rs9469220, corresponding to HLA-DQB1, was the most significantly associated SNP with serum total IgE levels when assessed in both the replication cohorts and the discovery and replication sets combined (P-value = 0.007 and 2.45×10−7, respectively). In addition, findings from earlier GWA studies were also validated in the current meta-analysis.
This meta-analysis independently identified a variant near HLA-DQB1 as a predictor of total serum IgE in multiple race-ethnic groups. This study also extends and confirms the findings of earlier GWA analyses in African American and Latino individuals.
PMCID: PMC3596497  PMID: 23146381
meta-analysis; genome wide association study; total immunoglobulin E; race-ethnicity; continental population groups
16.  Genome-wide association study of body mass index in 23,000 individuals with and without asthma 
Both asthma and obesity are complex disorders that are influenced by environmental and genetic factors. Shared genetic factors between asthma and obesity have been proposed to partly explain epidemiological findings of co-morbidity between these conditions.
To identify genetic variants that are associated with body mass index (BMI) in asthmatic children and adults, and to evaluate if there are differences between the genetics of BMI in asthmatics and healthy individuals.
In total, 19 studies contributed with genome-wide analysis study (GWAS) data from more than 23,000 individuals with predominantly European descent, of whom 8,165 are asthmatics.
We report associations between several DENND1B variants (p=2.2×10−7 for rs4915551) on chromosome 1q31 and BMI from a meta-analysis of GWAS data using 2,691 asthmatic children (screening data). The top DENND1B SNPs were next evaluated in seven independent replication data sets comprising 2,014 asthmatics, and rs4915551 was nominally replicated (p<0.05) in two of the seven studies and of borderline significance in one (p=0.059). However, strong evidence of effect heterogeneity was observed and overall, the association between rs4915551 and BMI was not significant in the total replication data set, p=0.71. Using a random effects model, BMI was overall estimated to increase by 0.30 kg/m2 (p=0.01 for combined screening and replication data sets, N=4,705) per additional G allele of this DENND1B SNP. FTO was confirmed as an important gene for adult and childhood BMI regardless of asthma status.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance
DENND1B was recently identified as an asthma susceptibility gene in a GWAS on children, and here we find evidence that DENND1B variants may also be associated with BMI in asthmatic children. However, the association was overall not replicated in the independent data sets and the heterogeneous effect of DENND1B points to complex associations with the studied diseases that deserve further study.
PMCID: PMC3608930  PMID: 23517042
Association; Asthma; BMI; Genetics; Genome-wide; Obesity
17.  Seasonal Variation in Human Gut Microbiome Composition 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90731.
The composition of the human gut microbiome is influenced by many environmental factors. Diet is thought to be one of the most important determinants, though we have limited understanding of the extent to which dietary fluctuations alter variation in the gut microbiome between individuals. In this study, we examined variation in gut microbiome composition between winter and summer over the course of one year in 60 members of a founder population, the Hutterites. Because of their communal lifestyle, Hutterite diets are similar across individuals and remarkably stable throughout the year, with the exception that fresh produce is primarily served during the summer and autumn months. Our data indicate that despite overall gut microbiome stability within individuals over time, there are consistent and significant population-wide shifts in microbiome composition across seasons. We found seasonal differences in both (i) the abundance of particular taxa (false discovery rate <0.05), including highly abundant phyla Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, and (ii) overall gut microbiome diversity (by Shannon diversity; P = 0.001). It is likely that the dietary fluctuations between seasons with respect to produce availability explain, at least in part, these differences in microbiome composition. For example, high levels of produce containing complex carbohydrates consumed during the summer months might explain increased abundance of Bacteroidetes, which contain complex carbohydrate digesters, and decreased levels of Actinobacteria, which have been negatively correlated to fiber content in food questionnaires. Our observations demonstrate the plastic nature of the human gut microbiome in response to variation in diet.
PMCID: PMC3949691  PMID: 24618913
18.  The maternal HLA-G 1597ΔC null mutation is associated with increased risk of pre-eclampsia and reduced HLA-G expression during pregnancy in African-American women 
Molecular Human Reproduction  2012;19(3):144-152.
The non-classical major histocompatibility complex molecule, human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-G, is thought to contribute to maternal immune tolerance and successful placentation during pregnancy. Genetic polymorphisms in HLA-G are known to influence expression levels as well as the relative expression of individual protein isoforms. As diminished or aberrant HLA-G expression patterns may contribute to the development of certain pregnancy complications, we sought to investigate the association between functional HLA-G polymorphisms and the risk of pre-eclampsia (PE) in African-American women. The association between maternal and fetal genotype at six HLA-G polymorphisms and risk of PE was assessed in 372 pregnancies (314 normotensive; 58 pre-eclamptic). We observed an elevated risk of PE (P = 0.00027) in pregnancies where the mother carried the 1597ΔC allele, a null allele that abolishes expression of full-length HLA-G isoforms. Furthermore, the frequency of the maternal 1597ΔC allele was highest in the subset of pre-eclamptic pregnancies that were delivered preterm, suggesting an association between the null allele and the severity of PE. We then replicated the association between higher maternal 1597ΔC allele frequency and increased severity of PE (P = 0.038) in an independent sample of 533 African-American women. Finally, to investigate the mechanistic basis of this association, we measured circulating soluble HLA-G (sHLA-G) concentrations in maternal serum collected during pregnancy in 51 healthy, normotensive African-American control women and found significantly lower levels in women carrying the 1597ΔC allele (P = 0.012). These results demonstrate that maternal HLA-G genotype is significantly associated with risk of PE in African-American women and is predictive of circulating sHLA-G levels during pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC3579410  PMID: 23002110
genetic predisposition; DNA variants; soluble HLA-G; toxemia of pregnancy; mutation
19.  Further Replication Studies of the EVE Consortium Meta-Analysis Identifies Two Asthma Risk Loci in European Americans 
Genome-wide association studies of asthma have implicated many genetic risk factors, with well-replicated associations at approximately 10 loci that account for only a small proportion of the genetic risk.
We aimed to identify additional asthma risk loci by performing an extensive replication study of the results from the EVE Consortium meta-analysis.
We selected 3186 SNPs for replication based on the p-values from the EVE Consortium meta-analysis. These SNPs were genotyped in ethnically diverse replication samples from nine different studies, totaling to 7202 cases, 6426 controls, and 507 case-parent trios. Association analyses were conducted within each participating study and the resulting test statistics were combined in a meta-analysis.
Two novel associations were replicated in European Americans: rs1061477 in the KLK3 gene on chromosome 19 (combined OR = 1.18; 95% CI 1.10 – 1.25) and rs9570077 (combined OR =1.20 95% CI 1.12–1.29) on chromosome 13q21. We could not replicate any additional associations in the African American or Latino individuals.
This extended replication study identified two additional asthma risk loci in populations of European descent. The absence of additional loci for African Americans and Latino individuals highlights the difficulty in replicating associations in admixed populations.
PMCID: PMC3666859  PMID: 23040885
Asthma; genetic risk factors; meta-analysis; KLK3
20.  Increased Protein-Coding Mutations in the Mitochondrial Genome of African American Women With Preeclampsia 
Reproductive Sciences  2012;19(12):1343-1351.
Preeclampsia occurs more frequently in women of African ancestry. The cause of this hypertensive complication is unclear, but placental oxidative stress may play a role. Because mitochondria are the major sites of oxidative phosphorylation, we hypothesized that placentas of preeclamptic pregnancies harbor mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations. Next-generation sequencing of placental mtDNA in African American preeclamptics (N = 30) and controls (N = 38) from Chicago revealed significant excesses in preeclamptics of nonsynonymous substitutions in protein-coding genes and mitochondrially encoded nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide dehydrogenase 5 gene and an increase in the substitution rate (P = .0001). Moreover, 88% of preeclamptics and 53% of controls carried at least one nonsynonymous substitution (P = .005; odds ratio [OR] = 6.36, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.5-39.1). These results were not replicated in a sample of African American preeclamptics (N = 162) and controls (N = 171) from Detroit. Differences in study design and heterogeneity may account for this lack of replication. Nonsynonymous substitutions in mtDNA may be risk factors for preeclampsia in some African American women, but additional studies are required to establish this relationship.
PMCID: PMC4046444  PMID: 22902742
preeclampsia; mtDNA; African American women; oxidative phosphorylation
21.  Rhinovirus Wheezing Illness and Genetic Risk of Childhood-Onset Asthma 
The New England journal of medicine  2013;368(15):1398-1407.
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.)
PMCID: PMC3755952  PMID: 23534543
22.  Accurate imputation of rare and common variants in a founder population from a small number of sequenced individuals 
Genetic epidemiology  2012;36(4):312-319.
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.
PMCID: PMC3794468  PMID: 22460724
Exome sequencing; association study; IBD calculation; complex pedigrees; imputation
23.  Genome-wide association studies of asthma indicate opposite immunopathogenesis direction from autoimmune diseases 
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.)
PMCID: PMC3579216  PMID: 22694930
Asthma; genetics; genome-wide association study; TNFAIP3 interacting protein 1
24.  Maternal asthma and microRNA regulation of soluble HLA-G in the airway. 
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.
PMCID: PMC3779062  PMID: 23534973
Asthma; maternal asthma; microRNA; Human Leukocyte Antigen
25.  A Common Cortactin Gene Variation Confers Differential Susceptibility to Severe Asthma 
Genetic epidemiology  2008;32(8):757-766.
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.
PMCID: PMC3774307  PMID: 18521921
CTTN; MLCK; cytoskeleton; SNP; asthma

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