Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) meta-analyses have identified a strong association signal for lung function, which maps to a region on 4q24 containing two oppositely transcribed genes: glutathione S-transferase, C-terminal domain containing (GSTCD) and integrator complex subunit 12 (INTS12). Both genes were found to be expressed in a range of human airway cell types. The promoter regions and transcription start sites were determined in mRNA from human lung and a novel splice variant was identified for each gene. We obtained the following evidence for GSTCD and INTS12 co-regulation and expression: (i) correlated mRNA expression was observed both via Q-PCR and in a lung expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) study, (ii) induction of both GSTCD and INTS12 mRNA expression in human airway smooth muscle cells was seen in response to TGFβ1, (iii) a lung eQTL study revealed that both GSTCD and INTS12 mRNA levels positively correlate with percent predicted FEV1, and (iv) FEV1 GWAS associated SNPs in 4q24 were found to act as an eQTL for INTS12 in a number of tissues. In fixed sections of human lung tissue, GSTCD protein expression was ubiquitous, whereas INTS12 expression was predominantly in epithelial cells and pneumocytes. During human fetal lung development, GSTCD protein expression was observed to be highest at the earlier pseudoglandular stage (10-12 weeks) compared with the later canalicular stage (17-19 weeks), whereas INTS12 expression levels did not alter throughout these stages. Knowledge of the transcriptional and translational regulation and expression of GSTCD and INTS12 provides important insights into the potential role of these genes in determining lung function. Future work is warranted to fully define the functions of INTS12 and GSTCD.
The interaction of genes and environmental exposures influences the development of asthma and determines asthma severity. This review focuses on recent developments in genetic studies of asthma onset and progression. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are currently the most effective approach to study genetics of complex diseases. There have been two large meta-analyses of asthma susceptibility, GABRIEL and EVE, which identified the same four chromosomal regions, many of which had also been identified in previous GWAS: loci in the ORMDL3 region of 17q21, IL1RL/IL18R genes on chromosome 2q, the TSLP gene region on 5q22, and IL33 on chromosome 9p24. These regions were associated with asthma in individuals of different ethnic backgrounds. EVE also identified a novel asthma susceptibility locus, PYHIN1, in individuals of African descent. Genome-wide screens for asthma susceptibility in Asian adults and children both identified genetic variants in the major histocompatiblity complex gene region (HLA region) on chromosome 6p21 as highly associated with asthma risk. This locus was one of the first candidate genes identified for asthma and has been a significant predictor of asthma risk in several GWAS.
There is also a need to understand asthma disease heterogeneity as different phenotypes may reflect several pathogenic pathways. Genes that are associated with phenotypes including lung function, biomarker levels and asthma therapeutic responses provide insight into mechanisms of asthma severity progression. For example, the HHIP gene is a significant predictor of pulmonary function changes in asthma and in the normal population. A joint model of risk variants in lung function genes were highly associated with lower FEV1 and increased asthma severity criteria. In addition, a genome-wide screen to discover pharmacogenetic associations related to response to inhaled glucocorticoids identified two correlated SNPs in the GLCCI1 gene that confer a significant lung function response to this asthma therapy.
Future genetic studies for asthma susceptibility and severity will incorporate exome or whole-genome sequencing to identify common and rare genetic variants. Using these variants identified in comprehensively phenotyped asthmatics will lead to the development of personalized therapy in individuals with asthma.
Asthma; genetics; susceptibility; severity; personalized medicine; therapy; lung function
Airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), a primary characteristic of asthma, involves increased airway smooth muscle contractility in response to certain exposures. We sought to determine whether common genetic variants were associated with AHR severity.
A genome-wide association study (GWAS) of AHR, quantified as the natural log of the dosage of methacholine causing a 20% drop in FEV1, was performed with 994 non-Hispanic white asthmatic subjects from three drug clinical trials: CAMP, CARE, and ACRN. Genotyping was performed on Affymetrix 6.0 arrays, and imputed data based on HapMap Phase 2, was used to measure the association of SNPs with AHR using a linear regression model. Replication of primary findings was attempted in 650 white subjects from DAG, and 3,354 white subjects from LHS. Evidence that the top SNPs were eQTL of their respective genes was sought using expression data available for 419 white CAMP subjects.
The top primary GWAS associations were in rs848788 (P-value 7.2E-07) and rs6731443 (P-value 2.5E-06), located within the ITGB5 and AGFG1 genes, respectively. The AGFG1 result replicated at a nominally significant level in one independent population (LHS P-value 0.012), and the SNP had a nominally significant unadjusted P-value (0.0067) for being an eQTL of AGFG1.
Based on current knowledge of ITGB5 and AGFG1, our results suggest that variants within these genes may be involved in modulating AHR. Future functional studies are required to confirm that our associations represent true biologically significant findings.
Asthma; Airway hyperresponsiveness; Genome-wide association study; ITGB5; AGFG1
Lung growth in utero and lung function loss during adulthood can be affected by exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). The underlying mechanisms have not been fully elucidated. Both ETS exposure and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in Glutathione S-Transferase (GST) Omega genes have been associated with the level of lung function. This study aimed to assess if GSTO SNPs interact with ETS exposure in utero and during adulthood on the level of lung function during adulthood.
We used cross-sectional data of 8,128 genotyped participants from the LifeLines cohort study. Linear regression models (adjusted for age, sex, height, weight, current smoking, ex-smoking and packyears smoked) were used to analyze the associations between in utero, daily and workplace ETS exposure, GSTO SNPs, the interaction between ETS and GSTOs, and level of lung function (FEV1, FEV1/FVC). Since the interactions between ETS and GSTOs may be modified by active tobacco smoking we additionally assessed associations in never and ever smokers separately. A second sample of 5,308 genotyped LifeLines participants was used to verify our initial findings.
Daily and workplace ETS exposure was associated with significantly lower FEV1 levels. GSTO SNPs (recessive model) interacted with in utero ETS and were associated with higher levels of FEV1, whereas the interactions with daily and workplace ETS exposure were associated with lower levels of FEV1, effects being more pronounced in never smokers. The interaction of GSTO2 SNP rs156697 with in utero ETS associated with a higher level of FEV1 was significantly replicated in the second sample. Overall, the directions of the interactions of in utero and workplace ETS exposure with the SNPs found in the second (verification) sample were in line with the first sample.
GSTO genotypes interact with in utero and adulthood ETS exposure on adult lung function level, but in opposite directions.
Genes; Environmental tobacco smoke; Lung function
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the fourth leading cause of mortality worldwide. Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified robust susceptibility loci associated with COPD. However, the mechanisms mediating the risk conferred by these loci remain to be found. The goal of this study was to identify causal genes/variants within susceptibility loci associated with COPD. In the discovery cohort, genome-wide gene expression profiles of 500 non-tumor lung specimens were obtained from patients undergoing lung surgery. Blood-DNA from the same patients were genotyped for 1,2 million SNPs. Following genotyping and gene expression quality control filters, 409 samples were analyzed. Lung expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) were identified and overlaid onto three COPD susceptibility loci derived from GWAS; 4q31 (HHIP), 4q22 (FAM13A), and 19q13 (RAB4B, EGLN2, MIA, CYP2A6). Significant eQTLs were replicated in two independent datasets (n = 363 and 339). SNPs previously associated with COPD and lung function on 4q31 (rs1828591, rs13118928) were associated with the mRNA expression of HHIP. An association between mRNA expression level of FAM13A and SNP rs2045517 was detected at 4q22, but did not reach statistical significance. At 19q13, significant eQTLs were detected with EGLN2. In summary, this study supports HHIP, FAM13A, and EGLN2 as the most likely causal COPD genes on 4q31, 4q22, and 19q13, respectively. Strong lung eQTL SNPs identified in this study will need to be tested for association with COPD in case-control studies. Further functional studies will also be needed to understand the role of genes regulated by disease-related variants in COPD.
The ADAM33 gene is associated with the pathophysiology of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and atherosclerosis. In this study we investigated all-cause, COPD and cardiovascular mortality, in relation to single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in ADAM33 (Q_1, S_1, S_2, T_1 and T_2) that were genotyped in 1,390 subjects from the Vlagtwedde/Vlaardingen cohort. Participants were examined at entry in 1989/1990 and followed up till evaluation of the vital status on December 31st, 2008. Using Cox proportional hazards regression we estimated the risk of the SNPs in relation to mortality, adjusting for gender, age, FEV1, height, place of residence and packyears of smoking. Additionally, we performed stratified analyses according to gender and smoking habits. After 18 years, 284 (20.4%) subjects had died (107 due to cardiovascular disease and 20 due to COPD). Individuals homozygous for the minor allele of SNP T_2 had an increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality compared to wild types: hazard ratio 3.6 (95% confidence interval 2.0 to 6.7) and 3.4 (1.2 to 9.5) respectively. Individuals homozygous for the minor allele of S_1, S_2, T_2 or Q_1 had a significantly increased risk of COPD mortality. In stratified analyses the risk of all-cause mortality associated with SNP T_2 did not change: females 3.5 (1.5 to 8.3), males 3.1 (1.2 to 7.6), never smokers 3.8 (0.9 to 16.3), ever smokers 3.6 (1.8 to 7.2). This study shows for the first time that ADAM33 is a pleiotropic gene that is associated with all-cause, COPD and cardiovascular mortality, independent of potential confounders.
The diagnosis of childhood asthma covers a broad spectrum of pathological mechanisms that can lead to similarly presenting clinical symptoms, but may nonetheless require different treatment approaches. Distinct underlying inflammatory patterns are thought to influence responsiveness to standard asthma medication.
The purpose of the PACMAN2 study is to identify inflammatory phenotypes that can discriminate uncontrolled childhood asthma from controlled childhood asthma by measures in peripheral blood and exhaled air. PACMAN2 is a nested, case–control follow-up study to the ongoing pharmacy-based “Pharmacogenetics of Asthma medication in Children: Medication with Anti-inflammatory effects” (PACMAN) study. The original PACMAN cohort consists of children aged 4–12 years with reported use of asthma medication. The PACMAN2 study will be conducted within the larger PACMAN cohort, and will focus on detailed phenotyping of a subset of the PACMAN children. The selected participants will be invited to a follow-up visit in a clinical setting at least six months after their baseline visit based on their adherence to usage of inhaled corticosteroids, their asthma symptoms in the past year, and their age (≥ 8 years). During the follow-up visit, current and long-term asthma symptoms, medication use, environmental factors, medication adherence and levels of exhaled nitric oxide will be reassessed. The following measures will also be examined: pulmonary function, exhaled volatile organic compounds, as well as inflammatory markers in peripheral blood and blood plasma. Comparative analysis and cluster-analyses will be used to identify markers that differentiate children with uncontrolled asthma despite their use of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) (cases) from children whose asthma is controlled by the use of ICS (controls).
Asthmatic children with distinct inflammatory phenotypes may respond differently to anti-inflammatory therapy. Therefore, by identifying inflammatory phenotypes in children with the PACMAN2 study, we may greatly impact future personalised treatment strategies, uncover new leads for therapeutic targets and improve the design of future clinical studies in the assessment of the efficacy of novel therapeutics.
Asthma; Child; Phenotypes; Inflammation; Proteomics; Volatile organic compounds; Corticosteroids
Little is known about the factors associated with CT-quantified emphysema progression in heavy smokers. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of length of smoking cessation and clinical / demographical factors on the rate of emphysema progression and FEV1-decline in male heavy smokers.
3,670 male smokers with mean (SD) 40.8 (17.9) packyears underwent chest CT scans and pulmonary function tests at baseline and after 1 and 3 years follow-up. Smoking status (quitted ≥5, ≥1-<5, <1 years or current smoker) was noted. Rate of progression of emphysema and FEV1-decline after follow-up were assessed by analysis of variance adjusting for age, height, baseline pulmonary function and emphysema severity, packyears, years in study and respiratory symptoms. The quitted ≥5 group was used as reference.
Median (Q1-Q3) emphysema severity,<-950 HU, was 8.8 (5.1 – 14.1) and mean (SD) FEV1 was 3.4 (0.73) L or 98.5 (18.5) % of predicted. The group quitted ‘>5 years’ showed significantly lower rates of progression of emphysema compared to current smokers, 1.07% and 1.12% per year, respectively (p<0.001). Current smokers had a yearly FEV1-decline of 69 ml, while subjects quit smoking >5 years had a yearly decline of 57.5 ml (p<0.001).
Quit smoking >5 years significantly slows the rate of emphysema progression and lung function decline.
Registered at http://www.trialregister.nl with trial number ISRCTN63545820.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); Emphysema; Smoking; Pulmonary function testing
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes involved in fatty acid metabolism (FADS1 FADS2 gene cluster) are associated with plasma lipid levels. We aimed to investigate whether these associations are already present early in life and compare the relative contribution of FADS SNPs vs traditional (non-genetic) factors as determinants of plasma lipid levels.
Information on infants’ plasma total cholesterol levels, genotypes of five FADS SNPs (rs174545, rs174546, rs174556, rs174561, and rs3834458), anthropometric data, maternal characteristics, and breastfeeding history was available for 521 2-year-old children from the KOALA Birth Cohort Study. For 295 of these 521 children, plasma HDLc and non-HDLc levels were also known. Multivariable linear regression analysis was used to study the associations of genetic and non-genetic determinants with cholesterol levels.
All FADS SNPs were significantly associated with total cholesterol levels. Heterozygous and homozygous for the minor allele children had about 4% and 8% lower total cholesterol levels than major allele homozygotes. In addition, homozygous for the minor allele children had about 7% lower HDLc levels. This difference reached significance for the SNPs rs174546 and rs3834458. The associations went in the same direction for non-HDLc, but statistical significance was not reached. The percentage of total variance of total cholesterol levels explained by FADS SNPs was relatively low (lower than 3%) but of the same order as that explained by gender and the non-genetic determinants together.
FADS SNPs are associated with plasma total cholesterol and HDLc levels in preschool children. This brings a new piece of evidence to explain how blood lipid levels may track from childhood to adulthood. Moreover, the finding that these SNPs explain a similar amount of variance in total cholesterol levels as the non-genetic determinants studied reveals the potential importance of investigating the effects of genetic variations in early life.
Smoking and inflammation contribute to the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which involves changes in extracellular matrix. This is thought to contribute to airway remodeling and airflow obstruction. We have previously observed that long-term treatment with inhaled corticosteroids can not only reduce bronchial inflammation, but can also attenuate lung function decline in moderate-severe COPD. We hypothesized that inhaled corticosteroids and current smoking modulate bronchial extracellular matrix components in COPD.
To compare major extracellular matrix components (elastic fibers; proteoglycans [versican, decorin]; collagens type I and III) in bronchial biopsies 1) after 30-months inhaled steroids treatment or placebo; and 2) between current and ex-smokers with COPD.
We included 64 moderate-severe, steroid-naive COPD patients (24/40 (ex)-smokers, 62±7 years, 46 (31–54) packyears, post-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) 62±9% predicted) at baseline in this randomized, controlled trial. 19 and 13 patients received 30-months treatment with fluticasone or placebo, respectively. Bronchial biopsies collected at baseline and after 30 months were studied using (immuno)histochemistry to evaluate extracellular matrix content. Percentage and density of stained area were calculated by digital image analysis.
30-Months inhaled steroids increased the percentage stained area of versican (9.6% [CI 0.9 to 18.3%]; p = 0.03) and collagen III (20.6% [CI 3.8 to 37.4%]; p = 0.02) compared to placebo. Increased collagen I staining density correlated with increased post-bronchodilator FEV1 after inhaled steroids treatment (Rs = 0.45, p = 0.04). There were no differences between smokers and ex-smokers with COPD in percentages and densities for all extracellular matrix proteins.
These data show that long-term inhaled corticosteroids treatment partially changes the composition of extracellular matrix in moderate-severe COPD. This is associated with increased lung function, suggesting that long-term inhaled steroids modulate airway remodeling thereby potentially preventing airway collapse in COPD. Smoking status is not associated with bronchial extracellular matrix proteins.
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
Asthma is a common chronic respiratory disease characterized by airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). The genetics of asthma have been widely studied in mouse and human, and homologous genomic regions have been associated with mouse AHR and human asthma-related phenotypes. Our goal was to identify asthma-related genes by integrating AHR associations in mouse with human genome-wide association study (GWAS) data. We used Efficient Mixed Model Association (EMMA) analysis to conduct a GWAS of baseline AHR measures from males and females of 31 mouse strains. Genes near or containing SNPs with EMMA p-values <0.001 were selected for further study in human GWAS. The results of the previously reported EVE consortium asthma GWAS meta-analysis consisting of 12,958 diverse North American subjects from 9 study centers were used to select a subset of homologous genes with evidence of association with asthma in humans. Following validation attempts in three human asthma GWAS (i.e., Sepracor/LOCCS/LODO/Illumina, GABRIEL, DAG) and two human AHR GWAS (i.e., SHARP, DAG), the Kv channel interacting protein 4 (KCNIP4) gene was identified as nominally associated with both asthma and AHR at a gene- and SNP-level. In EVE, the smallest KCNIP4 association was at rs6833065 (P-value 2.9e-04), while the strongest associations for Sepracor/LOCCS/LODO/Illumina, GABRIEL, DAG were 1.5e-03, 1.0e-03, 3.1e-03 at rs7664617, rs4697177, rs4696975, respectively. At a SNP level, the strongest association across all asthma GWAS was at rs4697177 (P-value 1.1e-04). The smallest P-values for association with AHR were 2.3e-03 at rs11947661 in SHARP and 2.1e-03 at rs402802 in DAG. Functional studies are required to validate the potential involvement of KCNIP4 in modulating asthma susceptibility and/or AHR. Our results suggest that a useful approach to identify genes associated with human asthma is to leverage mouse AHR association data.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a heterogeneous disease with pulmonary and extra-pulmonary manifestations. Although COPD is a complex disease, diagnosis and staging are still based on simple spirometry measurements. Different COPD phenotypes exist based on clinical, physiological, immunological and radiological observations. Cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for COPD, but only 15–20% of smokers develop the disease, suggesting a genetic predisposition. Unfortunately, little is known about the pathogenesis of COPD, and even less on the very first steps that are associated with an aberrant response to smoke exposure. This study aims to investigate the underlying local and systemic inflammation of different clinical COPD phenotypes, and acute effects of cigarette smoke exposure in individuals susceptible and non-susceptible for the development of COPD. Furthermore, we will investigate mechanisms associated with corticosteroid insensitivity. Our study will provide valuable information regarding the pathogenetic mechanisms underlying the natural course of COPD.
Methods and analysis
This cross-sectional study will include young and old individuals susceptible or non-susceptible to develop COPD. At a young age (18–40 years) 60 ‘party smokers’ will be included who are called susceptible or non-susceptible based on COPD prevalence in smoking family members. In addition, 30 healthy smokers (age 40–75 years) and 110 COPD patients will be included. Measurements will include questionnaires, pulmonary function, low-dose CT scanning of the lung, body composition, 6 min walking distance and biomarkers in peripheral blood, sputum, urine, exhaled breath condensate, epithelial lining fluid, bronchial brushes and biopsies. Non-biased approaches such as proteomics will be performed in blood and epithelial lining fluid.
Ethics and dissemination
This multicentre study was approved by the medical ethical committees of UMC Groningen and Utrecht, the Netherlands. The study findings will be presented at conferences and will be reported in peer-reviewed journals.
ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT00807469 (study 1) and NCT00850863 (study 2).
COPD; Inflammation; Susceptibility; Corticosteroid insensitivity; Smoking
Increased airway wall thickness (AWT) and parenchymal lung destruction both contribute to airflow limitation. Advances in computed tomography (CT) post-processing imaging allow to quantify these features. The aim of this Dutch population study is to assess the relationships between AWT, lung function, emphysema and respiratory symptoms.
AWT and emphysema were assessed by low-dose CT in 500 male heavy smokers, randomly selected from a lung cancer screening population. AWT was measured in each lung lobe in cross-sectionally reformatted images with an automated imaging program at locations with an internal diameter of 3.5 mm, and validated in smaller cohorts of patients. The 15th percentile method (Perc15) was used to assess the severity of emphysema. Information about respiratory symptoms and smoking behavior was collected by questionnaires and lung function by spirometry.
Median AWT in airways with an internal diameter of 3.5 mm (AWT3.5) was 0.57 (0.44 - 0.74) mm. Median AWT in subjects without symptoms was 0.52 (0.41-0.66) and in those with dyspnea and/or wheezing 0.65 (0.52-0.81) mm (p<0.001). In the multivariate analysis only AWT3.5 and emphysema independently explained 31.1%and 9.5%of the variance in FEV1%predicted, respectively, after adjustment for smoking behavior.
Post processing standardization of airway wall measurements provides a reliable and useful method to assess airway wall thickness. Increased airway wall thickness contributes more to airflow limitation than emphysema in a smoking male population even after adjustment for smoking behavior.
Airway dimensions; Low-dose CT; Respiratory symptoms; Smoking; Airflow limitation; Emphysema
The pathogenesis of COPD is complex and remains poorly understood. The European Respiratory Society Study on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (EUROSCOP) investigated long-term effects of budesonide; 18% of the COPD participants were atopic. So far effects of atopy on the long-term course of COPD have not been elucidated.
Factors related to the presence of atopy (positive phadiatop) in 1277 mild-to-moderate COPD patients participating in EUROSCOP were analysed using regression analysis. Incidence and remission of respiratory symptoms during 3-year follow-up were analysed using generalised estimating equations models, and association of atopy with lung function decline using linear mixed effects models.
Independent predisposing factors associated with the presence of atopy were: male gender (OR: 2.21; 95% CI: 1.47–3.34), overweight/obese (OR: 1.41; 95% CI: 1.04–1.92) and lower age (OR: 0.98; 95% CI: 0.96–0.99). Atopy was associated with a higher prevalence of cough (OR: 1.71; 95% CI: 1.26–2.34) and phlegm (OR: 1.50; 95% CI: 1.10–2.03), but not with lung function levels or FEV1 decline. Atopic COPD patients not treated with budesonide had an increased incidence of cough over time (OR: 1.79, 95% CI: 1.03–3.08, p = 0.038), while those treated with budesonide had increased remission of cough (OR: 1.93, 95% CI: 1.11–3.37, p = 0.02) compared to non-atopic COPD patients.
Atopic COPD patients are more likely male, have overweight/obesity and are younger as compared with non-atopic COPD patients. Atopy in COPD is associated with an increased incidence and prevalence of respiratory symptoms. If atopic COPD patients are treated with budesonide, they more often show remission of symptoms compared to non-atopic COPD patients who are treated with budesonide. We recommend including atopy in the diagnostic work-up and management of COPD.
Allergy; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Corticosteroid; Gender; Lung function; Respiratory symptoms
Genetic variation in nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit genes (nAChRs) is associated with lung function level and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is unknown whether these variants also predispose to an accelerated lung function decline. We investigated the association of nAChR susceptibility variants with lung function decline and COPD severity. The rs1051730 and rs8034191 variants were genotyped in a population-based cohort of 1,226 heavy smokers (COPACETIC) and in an independent cohort of 883 heavy smokers, of which 653 with COPD of varying severity (LEUVEN). Participants underwent pulmonary function tests at baseline. Lung function decline was assessed over a median follow-up of 3 years in COPACETIC. Current smokers homozygous for the rs1051730 A-allele or rs8034191 G-allele had significantly greater FEV1/FVC decline than homozygous carriers of wild-type alleles (3.3% and 4.3%, p = 0.026 and p = 0.009, respectively). In the LEUVEN cohort, rs1051730 AA-carriers and rs8034191 GG-carriers had a two-fold increased risk to suffer from COPD GOLD IV (OR 2.29, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.11–4.75; p = 0.025 and OR = 2.42, 95% [CI] = 1.18–4.95; p = 0.016, respectively). The same risk alleles conferred, respectively, a five- and four-fold increased risk to be referred for lung transplantation because of end-stage COPD (OR = 5.0, 95% [CI] = 1.68–14.89; p = 0.004 and OR = 4.06, 95% [CI] = 1.39–11.88; p = 0.010). In Europeans, variants in nAChRs associate with an accelerated lung function decline in current smokers and with clinically relevant COPD.
Genome-wide association studies have identified numerous genetic loci for spirometic measures of pulmonary function, forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), and its ratio to forced vital capacity (FEV1/FVC). Given that cigarette smoking adversely affects pulmonary function, we conducted genome-wide joint meta-analyses (JMA) of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and SNP-by-smoking (ever-smoking or pack-years) associations on FEV1 and FEV1/FVC across 19 studies (total N = 50,047). We identified three novel loci not previously associated with pulmonary function. SNPs in or near DNER (smallest PJMA = 5.00×10−11), HLA-DQB1 and HLA-DQA2 (smallest PJMA = 4.35×10−9), and KCNJ2 and SOX9 (smallest PJMA = 1.28×10−8) were associated with FEV1/FVC or FEV1 in meta-analysis models including SNP main effects, smoking main effects, and SNP-by-smoking (ever-smoking or pack-years) interaction. The HLA region has been widely implicated for autoimmune and lung phenotypes, unlike the other novel loci, which have not been widely implicated. We evaluated DNER, KCNJ2, and SOX9 and found them to be expressed in human lung tissue. DNER and SOX9 further showed evidence of differential expression in human airway epithelium in smokers compared to non-smokers. Our findings demonstrated that joint testing of SNP and SNP-by-environment interaction identified novel loci associated with complex traits that are missed when considering only the genetic main effects.
Measures of pulmonary function provide important clinical tools for evaluating lung disease and its progression. Genome-wide association studies have identified numerous genetic risk factors for pulmonary function but have not considered interaction with cigarette smoking, which has consistently been shown to adversely impact pulmonary function. In over 50,000 study participants of European descent, we applied a recently developed joint meta-analysis method to simultaneously test associations of gene and gene-by-smoking interactions in relation to two major clinical measures of pulmonary function. Using this joint method to incorporate genetic main effects plus gene-by-smoking interaction, we identified three novel gene regions not previously related to pulmonary function: (1) DNER, (2) HLA-DQB1 and HLA-DQA2, and (3) KCNJ2 and SOX9. Expression analyses in human lung tissue from ours or prior studies indicate that these regions contain genes that are plausibly involved in pulmonary function. This work highlights the utility of employing novel methods for incorporating environmental interaction in genome-wide association studies to identify novel genetic regions.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified loci reproducibly associated with pulmonary diseases; however, the molecular mechanism underlying these associations are largely unknown. The objectives of this study were to discover genetic variants affecting gene expression in human lung tissue, to refine susceptibility loci for asthma identified in GWAS studies, and to use the genetics of gene expression and network analyses to find key molecular drivers of asthma. We performed a genome-wide search for expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) in 1,111 human lung samples. The lung eQTL dataset was then used to inform asthma genetic studies reported in the literature. The top ranked lung eQTLs were integrated with the GWAS on asthma reported by the GABRIEL consortium to generate a Bayesian gene expression network for discovery of novel molecular pathways underpinning asthma. We detected 17,178 cis- and 593 trans- lung eQTLs, which can be used to explore the functional consequences of loci associated with lung diseases and traits. Some strong eQTLs are also asthma susceptibility loci. For example, rs3859192 on chr17q21 is robustly associated with the mRNA levels of GSDMA (P = 3.55×10−151). The genetic-gene expression network identified the SOCS3 pathway as one of the key drivers of asthma. The eQTLs and gene networks identified in this study are powerful tools for elucidating the causal mechanisms underlying pulmonary disease. This data resource offers much-needed support to pinpoint the causal genes and characterize the molecular function of gene variants associated with lung diseases.
Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified genetic variants associated with lung diseases. The challenge now is to find the causal genes in GWAS–nominated chromosomal regions and to characterize the molecular function of disease-associated genetic variants. In this paper, we describe an international effort to systematically capture the genetic architecture of gene expression regulation in human lung. By studying lung specimens from 1,111 individuals of European ancestry, we found a large number of genetic variants affecting gene expression in the lung, or lung expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL). These lung eQTLs will serve as an important resource to aid in the understanding of the molecular underpinnings of lung biology and its disruption in disease. To demonstrate the utility of this lung eQTL dataset, we integrated our data with previous genetic studies on asthma. Through integrative techniques, we identified causal variants and genes in GWAS–nominated loci and found key molecular drivers for asthma. We feel that sharing our lung eQTLs dataset with the scientific community will leverage the impact of previous large-scale GWAS on lung diseases and function by providing much needed functional information to understand the molecular changes introduced by the susceptibility genetic variants.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) participate in the defence against bacterial infections that are common in patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). We studied all tagging SNPs in TLR2 and TLR4 and their associations with the level and change over time of both FEV1 and sputum inflammatory cells in moderate-to-severe COPD. Nine TLR2 SNPs and 17 TLR4 SNPs were genotyped in 110 COPD patients. Associations of SNPs with lung function and inflammatory cells in induced sputum were analyzed cross-sectionally with linear regression and longitudinally with linear mixed-effect models. Two SNPs in TLR2 (rs1898830 and rs11938228) were associated with a lower level of FEV1 and accelerated decline of FEV1 and higher numbers of sputum inflammatory cells. None of the TLR4 SNPs was associated with FEV1 level. Eleven out of 17 SNPs were associated with FEV1 decline, including rs12377632 and rs10759931, which were additionally associated with higher numbers of sputum inflammatory cells at baseline and with increase over time. This is the first longitudinal study showing that tagging SNPs in TLR2 and TLR4 are associated with the level and decline of lung function as well as with inflammatory cell numbers in induced sputum in COPD patients, suggesting a role in the severity and progression of COPD.
Oxidative stress related genes modify the effects of ambient air pollution or tobacco smoking on lung function decline. The impact of interactions might be substantial, but previous studies mostly focused on main effects of single genes.
We studied the interaction of both exposures with a broad set of oxidative-stress related candidate genes and pathways on lung function decline and contrasted interactions between exposures.
For 12679 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), change in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), FEV1 over forced vital capacity (FEV1/FVC), and mean forced expiratory flow between 25 and 75% of the FVC (FEF25-75) was regressed on interval exposure to particulate matter <10 µm in diameter (PM10) or packyears smoked (a), additive SNP effects (b), and interaction terms between (a) and (b) in 669 adults with GWAS data. Interaction p-values for 152 genes and 14 pathways were calculated by the adaptive rank truncation product (ARTP) method, and compared between exposures. Interaction effect sizes were contrasted for the strongest SNPs of nominally significant genes (pinteraction<0.05). Replication was attempted for SNPs with MAF>10% in 3320 SAPALDIA participants without GWAS.
On the SNP-level, rs2035268 in gene SNCA accelerated FEV1/FVC decline by 3.8% (pinteraction = 2.5×10−6), and rs12190800 in PARK2 attenuated FEV1 decline by 95.1 ml pinteraction = 9.7×10−8) over 11 years, while interacting with PM10. Genes and pathways nominally interacting with PM10 and packyears exposure differed substantially. Gene CRISP2 presented a significant interaction with PM10 (pinteraction = 3.0×10−4) on FEV1/FVC decline. Pathway interactions were weak. Replications for the strongest SNPs in PARK2 and CRISP2 were not successful.
Consistent with a stratified response to increasing oxidative stress, different genes and pathways potentially mediate PM10 and tobacco smoke effects on lung function decline. Ignoring environmental exposures would miss these patterns, but achieving sufficient sample size and comparability across study samples is challenging.
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.
Multiple genetic variants have been associated with adult obesity and a few with severe obesity in childhood; however, less progress has been made to establish genetic influences on common early-onset obesity. We performed a North American-Australian-European collaborative meta-analysis of fourteen studies consisting of 5,530 cases (≥95th percentile of body mass index (BMI)) and 8,318 controls (<50th percentile of BMI) of European ancestry. Taking forward the eight novel signals yielding association with P < 5×10−6 in to nine independent datasets (n = 2,818 cases and 4,083 controls) we observed two loci that yielded a genome wide significant combined P-value, namely near OLFM4 on 13q14 (rs9568856; P=1.82×10−9; OR=1.22) and within HOXB5 on 17q21 (rs9299; P=3.54×10−9; OR=1.14). Both loci continued to show association when including two extreme childhood obesity cohorts (n = 2,214 cases and 2,674 controls). Finally, these two loci yielded directionally consistent associations in the GIANT meta-analysis of adult BMI1.
Frequent exacerbations induce a high burden to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). We investigated the course of exacerbations in the published COSMIC study that investigated the effects of 1-year withdrawal of fluticasone after a 3-month run-in treatment period with salmeterol/fluticasone in patients with COPD.
In 373 patients, we evaluated diary cards for symptoms, Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF), and salbutamol use and assessed their course during exacerbations.
There were 492 exacerbations in 224 patients. The level of symptoms of cough, sputum, dyspnea and nocturnal awakening steadily increased from 2 weeks prior to exacerbation, with a sharp rise during the last week. Symptoms of cough, sputum, and dyspnea reverted to baseline values at different rates (after 4, 4, and 7 weeks respectively), whereas symptoms of nocturnal awakening were still increased after eight weeks. The course of symptoms was similar around a first and second exacerbation. Increases in symptoms and salbutamol use and decreases in PEF were associated with a higher risk to develop an exacerbation, but with moderate predictive values, the areas under the receiver operating curves ranging from 0.63 to 0.70.
Exacerbations of COPD are associated with increased symptoms that persist for weeks and the course is very similar between a first and second exacerbation. COPD exacerbations are preceded by increased symptoms and salbutamol use and lower PEF, yet predictive values are too low to warrant daily use in clinical practice.
COPD; Exacerbations; CCQ; Symptoms
Genome-wide association studies identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) cluster as a risk factor for nicotine dependency and COPD. We investigated whether SNPs in the nAChR cluster are associated with smoking habits and lung function decline, and if these potential associations are independent of each other. The SNPs rs569207, rs1051730 and rs8034191 in the nAChR cluster were analyzed in the Vlagtwedde-Vlaardingen cohort (n = 1,390) that was followed for 25 years. We used GEE and LME models to analyze the associations of the SNPs with quitting or restarting smoking and with the annual FEV1 decline respectively. Individuals homozygote (CC) for rs569207 were more likely to quit smoking (OR (95%CI) = 1.58 (1.05–2.38)) compared to wild-type (TT) individuals. Individuals homozygote (TT) for rs1051730 were less likely to quit smoking (0.64 (0.42; 0.97)) compared to wild-type (CC) individuals. None of the SNPs was significantly associated with the annual FEV1 decline in smokers and ex-smokers. We show that SNPs in the nAChR region are associated with smoking habits such as quitting smoking, but have no significant effect on the annual FEV1 decline in smokers and ex-smokers, suggesting a potential role of these SNPs in COPD development via smoking habits rather than via direct effects on lung function.