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1.  Gene expression analysis uncovers novel Hedgehog interacting protein (HHIP) effects in human bronchial epithelial cells 
Genomics  2013;101(5):263-272.
Hedgehog Interacting Protein (HHIP) was implicated in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by genome-wide association studies (GWAS). However, it remains unclear how HHIP contributes to COPD pathogenesis. To identify genes regulated by HHIP, we performed gene expression microarray analysis in a human bronchial epithelial cell line (Beas-2B) stably infected with HHIP shRNAs. HHIP silencing led to differential expression of 296 genes; enrichment for variants nominally associated with COPD was found. Eighteen of the differentially expressed genes were validated by real-time PCR in Beas-2B cells. Seven of 11 validated genes tested in human COPD and control lung tissues demonstrated significant gene expression differences. Functional annotation indicated enrichment for extracellular matrix and cell growth genes. Network modeling demonstrated that the extracellular matrix and cell proliferation genes influenced by HHIP tended to be interconnected. Thus, we identified potential HHIP targets in human bronchial epithelial cells that may contribute to COPD pathogenesis.
doi:10.1016/j.ygeno.2013.02.010
PMCID: PMC3659826  PMID: 23459001
Hedgehog interacting protein (HHIP); Gene expression profiling; COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease); extracellular matrix (ECM); network modeling
2.  Susceptibility to Chronic Mucus Hypersecretion, a Genome Wide Association Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e91621.
Background
Chronic mucus hypersecretion (CMH) is associated with an increased frequency of respiratory infections, excess lung function decline, and increased hospitalisation and mortality rates in the general population. It is associated with smoking, but it is unknown why only a minority of smokers develops CMH. A plausible explanation for this phenomenon is a predisposing genetic constitution. Therefore, we performed a genome wide association (GWA) study of CMH in Caucasian populations.
Methods
GWA analysis was performed in the NELSON-study using the Illumina 610 array, followed by replication and meta-analysis in 11 additional cohorts. In total 2,704 subjects with, and 7,624 subjects without CMH were included, all current or former heavy smokers (≥20 pack-years). Additional studies were performed to test the functional relevance of the most significant single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP).
Results
A strong association with CMH, consistent across all cohorts, was observed with rs6577641 (p = 4.25×10−6, OR = 1.17), located in intron 9 of the special AT-rich sequence-binding protein 1 locus (SATB1) on chromosome 3. The risk allele (G) was associated with higher mRNA expression of SATB1 (4.3×10−9) in lung tissue. Presence of CMH was associated with increased SATB1 mRNA expression in bronchial biopsies from COPD patients. SATB1 expression was induced during differentiation of primary human bronchial epithelial cells in culture.
Conclusions
Our findings, that SNP rs6577641 is associated with CMH in multiple cohorts and is a cis-eQTL for SATB1, together with our additional observation that SATB1 expression increases during epithelial differentiation provide suggestive evidence that SATB1 is a gene that affects CMH.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091621
PMCID: PMC3979657  PMID: 24714607
3.  Dissecting direct and indirect genetic effects on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) susceptibility 
Human genetics  2013;132(4):431-441.
Cigarette smoking is the major environmental risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Genome-wide association studies have provided compelling associations for three loci with COPD. In this study, we aimed to estimate direct, i.e., independent from smoking, and indirect effects of those loci on COPD development using mediation analysis. We included a total of 3,424 COPD cases and 1,872 unaffected controls with data on two smoking-related phenotypes: lifetime average smoking intensity and cumulative exposure to tobacco smoke (pack years). Our analysis revealed that effects of two linked variants (rs1051730 and rs8034191) in the AGPHD1/CHRNA3 cluster on COPD development are significantly, yet not entirely, mediated by the smoking-related phenotypes. Approximately 30 % of the total effect of variants in the AGPHD1/CHRNA3 cluster on COPD development was mediated by pack years. Simultaneous analysis of modestly (r2 = 0.21) linked markers in CHRNA3 and IREB2 revealed that an even larger (~42 %) proportion of the total effect of the CHRNA3 locus on COPD was mediated by pack years after adjustment for an IREB2 single nucleotide polymorphism. This study confirms the existence of direct effects of the AGPHD1/CHRNA3, IREB2, FAM13A and HHIP loci on COPD development. While the association of the AGPHD1/CHRNA3 locus with COPD is significantly mediated by smoking-related phenotypes, IREB2 appears to affect COPD independently of smoking.
doi:10.1007/s00439-012-1262-3
PMCID: PMC3600068  PMID: 23299987
4.  The central molecular clock is robust in the face of behavioural arrhythmia in a Drosophila model of Alzheimer’s disease 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2014;7(4):445-458.
Circadian behavioural deficits, including sleep irregularity and restlessness in the evening, are a distressing early feature of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We have investigated these phenomena by studying the circadian behaviour of transgenic Drosophila expressing the amyloid beta peptide (Aβ). We find that Aβ expression results in an age-related loss of circadian behavioural rhythms despite ongoing normal molecular oscillations in the central clock neurons. Even in the absence of any behavioural correlate, the synchronised activity of the central clock remains protective, prolonging lifespan, in Aβ flies just as it does in control flies. Confocal microscopy and bioluminescence measurements point to processes downstream of the molecular clock as the main site of Aβ toxicity. In addition, there seems to be significant non-cell-autonomous Aβ toxicity resulting in morphological and probably functional signalling deficits in central clock neurons.
doi:10.1242/dmm.014134
PMCID: PMC3974455  PMID: 24574361
Alzheimer’s disease; Circadian dysfunction; Non-cell-autonomous Aβ toxicity; Drosophila model; Biological clock
5.  Myxomavirus-Derived Serpin Prolongs Survival and Reduces Inflammation and Hemorrhage in an Unrelated Lethal Mouse Viral Infection 
Lethal viral infections produce widespread inflammation with vascular leak, clotting, and bleeding (disseminated intravascular coagulation [DIC]), organ failure, and high mortality. Serine proteases in clot-forming (thrombotic) and clot-dissolving (thrombolytic) cascades are activated by an inflammatory cytokine storm and also can induce systemic inflammation with loss of normal serine protease inhibitor (serpin) regulation. Myxomavirus secretes a potent anti-inflammatory serpin, Serp-1, that inhibits clotting factor X (fX) and thrombolytic tissue- and urokinase-type plasminogen activators (tPA and uPA) with anti-inflammatory activity in multiple animal models. Purified serpin significantly improved survival in a murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (MHV68) infection in gamma interferon receptor (IFN-γR) knockout mice, a model for lethal inflammatory vasculitis. Treatment of MHV68-infected mice with neuroserpin, a mammalian serpin that inhibits only tPA and uPA, was ineffective. Serp-1 reduced virus load, lung hemorrhage, and aortic, lung, and colon inflammation in MHV68-infected mice and also reduced virus load. Neuroserpin suppressed a wide range of immune spleen cell responses after MHV68 infection, while Serp-1 selectively increased CD11c+ splenocytes (macrophage and dendritic cells) and reduced CD11b+ tissue macrophages. Serp-1 altered gene expression for coagulation and inflammatory responses, whereas neuroserpin did not. Serp-1 treatment was assessed in a second viral infection, mouse-adapted Zaire ebolavirus in wild-type BALB/c mice, with improved survival and reduced tissue necrosis. In summary, treatment with this unique myxomavirus-derived serpin suppresses systemic serine protease and innate immune responses caused by unrelated lethal viral infections (both RNA and DNA viruses), providing a potential new therapeutic approach for treatment of lethal viral sepsis.
doi:10.1128/AAC.02594-12
PMCID: PMC3754305  PMID: 23774438
6.  Genome-wide study identifies two loci associated with lung function decline in mild to moderate COPD 
Human genetics  2012;132(1):79-90.
Rationale
Accelerated lung function decline is a key COPD phenotype; however its genetic control remains largely unknown.
Methods
We performed a genome-wide association study using the Illumina Human660W-Quad v.1_A BeadChip. Generalized estimation equations were used to assess genetic contributions to lung function decline over a 5-year period in 4,048 European-American Lung Health Study participants with largely mild COPD. Genotype imputation was performed using reference HapMap II data. To validate regions meeting genome-wide significance, replication of top SNPs was attempted in independent cohorts. Three genes (TMEM26, ANK3 and FOXA1) within the regions of interest were selected for tissue expression studies using immunohistochemistry.
Measurements and Main Results
Two intergenic SNPs (rs10761570, rs7911302) on chromosome 10 and one SNP on chromosome 14 (rs177852) met genome-wide significance after Bonferroni. Further support for the chromosome 10 region was obtained by imputation, the most significantly associated imputed SNPs (rs10761571, rs7896712) being flanked by observed markers rs10761570 and rs7911302. Results were not replicated in four general population cohorts or a smaller cohort of subjects with moderate to severe COPD; however, we show novel expression of genes near regions of significantly associated SNPS, including TMEM26 and FOXA1 in airway epithelium and lung parenchyma, and ANK3 in alveolar macrophages. Levels of expression were associated with lung function and COPD status.
Conclusions
We identified two novel regions associated with lung function decline in mild COPD. Genes within these regions were expressed in relevant lung cells and their expression related to airflow limitation suggesting they may represent novel candidate genes for COPD susceptibility.
doi:10.1007/s00439-012-1219-6
PMCID: PMC3536920  PMID: 22986903
COPD; lung function decline; GWAS; genome wide association; genes; polymorphisms
7.  Endoplasmic reticulum polymers impair luminal protein mobility and sensitise to cellular stress in α1-antitrypsin deficiency 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2013;57(5):10.1002/hep.26173.
Point mutants of α1-antitrypsin form ordered polymers that are retained as inclusions within the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of hepatocytes in association with neonatal hepatitis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. These inclusions cause cell damage and predispose to ER stress in the absence of the classical unfolded protein response (UPR). The pathophysiology underlying this ER stress was explored by generating cell models that conditionally express wildtype α1-antitrypsin, two mutants that cause polymer-mediated inclusions and liver disease (E342K [the Z allele] and H334D) and a truncated mutant (Null Hong Kong, NHK) that induces classical ER stress and is removed by ER associated degradation. Expression of the polymeric mutants resulted in gross changes in the ER luminal environment that recapitulated the changes seen in liver sections from individuals with PI*ZZ α1-antitrypsin deficiency. In contrast expression of NHK α1-antitrypsin caused electron lucent dilatation and expansion of the ER throughout the cell. Photobleaching microscopy in live cells demonstrated a decrease in the mobility of soluble luminal proteins in cells that express E342K and H334D α1-antitrypsin when compared to those that express wildtype and NHK α1-antitrypsin (0.34±0.05, 0.22±0.03, 2.83±0.30 and 2.84±0.55 μm2/s respectively). There was no effect on protein mobility within ER membranes indicating that cisternal connectivity was not disrupted. Polymer expression alone was insufficient to induce the UPR but the resulting protein overload rendered cells hypersensitive to ER stress induced by either tunicamycin or glucose depletion.
Conclusion
Changes in protein diffusion provide an explanation for the cellular consequences of ER protein overload in mutants that cause inclusion body formation and α1-antitrypsin deficiency.
doi:10.1002/hep.26173
PMCID: PMC3871212  PMID: 23197448
cirrhosis; serpins; UPR; diffusion; FRAP-FLIP
8.  Genome-Wide Association Analysis of Blood Biomarkers in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Rationale: A genome-wide association study (GWAS) for circulating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) biomarkers could identify genetic determinants of biomarker levels and COPD susceptibility.
Objectives: To identify genetic variants of circulating protein biomarkers and novel genetic determinants of COPD.
Methods: GWAS was performed for two pneumoproteins, Clara cell secretory protein (CC16) and surfactant protein D (SP-D), and five systemic inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, IL-6, IL-8, and tumor necrosis factor-α) in 1,951 subjects with COPD. For genome-wide significant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (P < 1 × 10−8), association with COPD susceptibility was tested in 2,939 cases with COPD and 1,380 smoking control subjects. The association of candidate SNPs with mRNA expression in induced sputum was also elucidated.
Measurements and Main Results: Genome-wide significant susceptibility loci affecting biomarker levels were found only for the two pneumoproteins. Two discrete loci affecting CC16, one region near the CC16 coding gene (SCGB1A1) on chromosome 11 and another locus approximately 25 Mb away from SCGB1A1, were identified, whereas multiple SNPs on chromosomes 6 and 16, in addition to SNPs near SFTPD, had genome-wide significant associations with SP-D levels. Several SNPs affecting circulating CC16 levels were significantly associated with sputum mRNA expression of SCGB1A1 (P = 0.009–0.03). Several SNPs highly associated with CC16 or SP-D levels were nominally associated with COPD in a collaborative GWAS (P = 0.001–0.049), although these COPD associations were not replicated in two additional cohorts.
Conclusions: Distant genetic loci and biomarker-coding genes affect circulating levels of COPD-related pneumoproteins. A subset of these protein quantitative trait loci may influence their gene expression in the lung and/or COPD susceptibility.
Clinical trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT 00292552).
doi:10.1164/rccm.201206-1013OC
PMCID: PMC3622441  PMID: 23144326
biomarker; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; genome-wide association study
9.  Systemic Steroid Exposure Is Associated with Differential Methylation in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Rationale: Systemic glucocorticoids are used therapeutically to treat a variety of medical conditions. Epigenetic processes such as DNA methylation may reflect exposure to glucocorticoids and may be involved in mediating the responses and side effects associated with these medications.
Objectives: To test the hypothesis that differences in DNA methylation are associated with current systemic steroid use.
Methods: We obtained DNA methylation data at 27,578 CpG sites in 14,475 genes throughout the genome in two large, independent cohorts: the International COPD Genetics Network (ndiscovery = 1,085) and the Boston Early Onset COPD study (nreplication = 369). Sites were tested for association with current systemic steroid use using generalized linear mixed models.
Measurements and Main Results: A total of 511 sites demonstrated significant differential methylation by systemic corticosteroid use in all three of our primary models. Pyrosequencing validation confirmed robust differential methylation at CpG sites annotated to genes such as SLC22A18, LRP3, HIPK3, SCNN1A, FXYD1, IRF7, AZU1, SIT1, GPR97, ABHD16B, and RABGEF1. Functional annotation clustering demonstrated significant enrichment in intrinsic membrane components, hemostasis and coagulation, cellular ion homeostasis, leukocyte and lymphocyte activation and chemotaxis, protein transport, and responses to nutrients.
Conclusions: Our analyses suggest that systemic steroid use is associated with site-specific differential methylation throughout the genome. Differentially methylated CpG sites were found in biologically plausible and previously unsuspected pathways; these genes and pathways may be relevant in the development of novel targeted therapies.
doi:10.1164/rccm.201207-1280OC
PMCID: PMC3622442  PMID: 23065012
DNA methylation; glucocorticoids; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
10.  Suppression of Aβ toxicity by puromycin-sensitive aminopeptidase is independent of its proteolytic activity☆ 
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta  2013;1832(12):2115-2126.
The accumulation of β-amyloid (Aβ) peptide in the brain is one of the pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease and is thought to be of primary aetiological significance. In an unbiased genetic screen, we identified puromycin-sensitive aminopeptidase (PSA) as a potent suppressor of Aβ toxicity in a Drosophila model system. We established that coexpression of Drosophila PSA (dPSA) in the flies' brains improved their lifespan, protected against locomotor deficits, and reduced brain Aβ levels by clearing the Aβ plaque-like deposits. However, confocal microscopy and subcellular fractionation of amyloid-expressing 7PA2 cells demonstrated that PSA localizes to the cytoplasm. Therefore, PSA and Aβ are unlikely to be in the same cellular compartment; moreover, when we artificially placed them in the same compartment in flies, we could not detect a direct epistatic interaction. The consequent hypothesis that PSA's suppression of Aβ toxicity is indirect was supported by the finding that Aβ is not a proteolytic substrate for PSA in vitro. Furthermore, we showed that the enzymatic activity of PSA is not required for rescuing Aβ toxicity in neuronal SH-SY5Y cells. We investigated whether the stimulation of autophagy by PSA was responsible for these protective effects. However PSA's promotion of autophagosome fusion with lysosomes required proteolytic activity and so its effect on autophagy is not identical to its protection against Aβ toxicity.
Highlights
•PSA is a potent suppressor of Aβ toxicity and reduces brain Aβ levels in flies.•PSA is cytoplasmic but there is no direct epistatic interaction with Aβ in vivo.•Aβ is not a proteolytic substrate for PSA in vitro.•The enzymatic activity of PSA is not required for rescuing Aβ toxicity in cells.•PSA stimulates autophagy but this is unlikely to be the mechanism that suppresses Aβ toxicity.
doi:10.1016/j.bbadis.2013.07.019
PMCID: PMC3898073  PMID: 23911349
Puromycin-sensitive aminopeptidase; Amyloid; Alzheimer; Autophagy; Proteolysis
11.  Nitric oxide synthase polymorphisms, gene expression and lung function in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
Background
Due to the pleiotropic effects of nitric oxide (NO) within the lungs, it is likely that NO is a significant factor in the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The aim of this study was to test for association between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in three NO synthase (NOS) genes and lung function, as well as to examine gene expression and protein levels in relation to the genetic variation.
Methods
One SNP in each NOS gene (neuronal NOS (NOS1), inducible NOS (NOS2), and endothelial NOS (NOS3)) was genotyped in the Lung Health Study (LHS) and correlated with lung function. One SNP (rs1800779) was also analyzed for association with COPD and lung function in four COPD case–control populations. Lung tissue expression of NOS3 mRNA and protein was tested in individuals of known genotype for rs1800779. Immunohistochemistry of lung tissue was used to localize NOS3 expression.
Results
For the NOS3 rs1800779 SNP, the baseline forced expiratory volume in one second in the LHS was significantly higher in the combined AG + GG genotypic groups compared with the AA genotypic group. Gene expression and protein levels in lung tissue were significantly lower in subjects with the AG + GG genotypes than in AA subjects. NOS3 protein was expressed in the airway epithelium and subjects with the AA genotype demonstrated higher NOS3 expression compared with AG and GG individuals. However, we were not able to replicate the associations with COPD or lung function in the other COPD study groups.
Conclusions
Variants in the NOS genes were not associated with lung function or COPD status. However, the G allele of rs1800779 resulted in a decrease of NOS3 gene expression and protein levels and this has implications for the numerous disease states that have been associated with this polymorphism.
doi:10.1186/1471-2466-13-64
PMCID: PMC3827989  PMID: 24192154
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Nitric oxide synthase; Polymorphism; Gene expression
12.  Increased ERK signalling promotes inflammatory signalling in primary airway epithelial cells expressing Z α1-antitrypsin 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(4):929-941.
Overexpression of Z α1-antitrypsin is known to induce polymer formation, prime the cells for endoplasmic reticulum stress and initiate nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) signalling. However, whether endogenous expression in primary bronchial epithelial cells has similar consequences remains unclear. Moreover, the mechanism of NF-κB activation has not yet been elucidated. Here, we report excessive NF-κB signalling in resting primary bronchial epithelial cells from ZZ patients compared with wild-type (MM) controls, and this appears to be mediated by mitogen-activated protein/extracellular signal-regulated kinase, EGF receptor and ADAM17 activity. Moreover, we show that rather than being a response to protein polymers, NF-κB signalling in airway-derived cells represents a loss of anti-inflammatory signalling by M α1-antitrypsin. Treatment of ZZ primary bronchial epithelial cells with purified plasma M α1-antitrypsin attenuates this inflammatory response, opening up new therapeutic options to modulate airway inflammation in the lung.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddt487
PMCID: PMC4007119  PMID: 24097797
14.  Cigarette smoking behaviors and time since quitting are associated with differential DNA methylation across the human genome 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(13):3073-3082.
The impact of cigarette smoking can persist for extended periods following smoking cessation and may involve epigenetic reprogramming. Changes in DNA methylation associated with smoking may help to identify molecular pathways that contribute to the latency between exposure and disease onset. Cross-sectional cohort data from subjects in the International COPD Genetics Network (n = 1085) and the Boston Early-Onset COPD study (n = 369) were analyzed as the discovery and replication cohorts, respectively. Genome-wide methylation data on 27 578 CpG sites in 14 475 genes were obtained on DNA from peripheral blood leukocytes using the Illumina HumanMethylation27K Beadchip in both cohorts. We identified 15 sites significantly associated with current smoking, 2 sites associated with cumulative smoke exposure, and, within the subset of former smokers, 3 sites associated with time since quitting cigarettes. Two loci, factor II receptor-like 3 (F2RL3) and G-protein-coupled receptor 15 (GPR15), were significantly associated in all three analyses and were validated by pyrosequencing. These findings (i) identify a novel locus (GPR15) associated with cigarette smoking and (ii) suggest the existence of dynamic, site-specific methylation changes in response to smoking which may contribute to the extended risks associated with cigarette smoking that persist after cessation.
doi:10.1093/hmg/dds135
PMCID: PMC3373248  PMID: 22492999
15.  Sterol metabolism regulates neuroserpin polymer degradation in the absence of the unfolded protein response in the dementia FENIB 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(22):4616-4626.
Mutants of neuroserpin are retained as polymers within the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of neurones to cause the autosomal dominant dementia familial encephalopathy with neuroserpin inclusion bodies or FENIB. The cellular consequences are unusual in that the ordered polymers activate the ER overload response (EOR) in the absence of the canonical unfolded protein response. We use both cell lines and Drosophila models to show that the G392E mutant of neuroserpin that forms polymers is degraded by UBE2j1 E2 ligase and Hrd1 E3 ligase while truncated neuroserpin, a protein that lacks 132 amino acids, is degraded by UBE2g2 (E2) and gp78 (E3) ligases. The degradation of G392E neuroserpin results from SREBP-dependent activation of the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway in cells that express polymers of neuroserpin (G392E). Inhibition of HMGCoA reductase, the limiting enzyme of the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway, reduced the ubiquitination of G392E neuroserpin in our cell lines and increased the retention of neuroserpin polymers in both HeLa cells and primary neurones. Our data reveal a reciprocal relationship between cholesterol biosynthesis and the clearance of mutant neuroserpin. This represents the first description of a link between sterol metabolism and modulation of the proteotoxicity mediated by the EOR.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddt310
PMCID: PMC3889810  PMID: 23814041
16.  Reactive centre loop mutants of α-1-antitrypsin reveal position-specific effects on intermediate formation along the polymerization pathway 
Bioscience Reports  2013;33(3):e00046.
The common severe Z mutation (E342K) of α1-antitrypsin forms intracellular polymers that are associated with liver cirrhosis. The native fold of this protein is well-established and models have been proposed from crystallographic and biophysical data for the stable inter-molecular configuration that terminates the polymerization pathway. Despite these molecular ‘snapshots’, the details of the transition between monomer and polymer remain only partially understood. We surveyed the RCL (reactive centre loop) of α1-antitrypsin to identify sites important for progression, through intermediate states, to polymer. Mutations at P14P12 and P4, but not P10P8 or P2P1′, resulted in a decrease in detectable polymer in a cell model that recapitulates the intracellular polymerization of the Z variant, consistent with polymerization from a near-native conformation. We have developed a FRET (Förster resonance energy transfer)-based assay to monitor polymerization in small sample volumes. An in vitro assessment revealed the position-specific effects on the unimolecular and multimolecular phases of polymerization: the P14P12 region self-inserts early during activation, while the interaction between P6P4 and β-sheet A presents a kinetic barrier late in the polymerization pathway. Correspondingly, mutations at P6P4, but not P14P12, yield an increase in the overall apparent activation energy of association from ~360 to 550 kJ mol−1.
doi:10.1042/BSR20130038
PMCID: PMC3691886  PMID: 23659468
cirrhosis; emphysema; FRET; intermediate; polymerization; serpin; ANS, 8-anilinonaphthalene-1-sulfonic acid; bis-ANS, 4,4′-dianilino-1,1′-binaphthyl-5,5′-disulfonic acid; FRET, Förster resonance energy transfer; NTA, nitrilotriacetic acid; RCL, reactive centre loop; SI, stoichiometry of inhibition; Tm,midpoint of thermal denaturation
17.  Variable DNA Methylation Is Associated with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Lung Function 
Rationale: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with local (lung) and systemic (blood) inflammation and manifestations. DNA methylation is an important regulator of gene transcription, and global and specific gene methylation marks may vary with cigarette smoke exposure.
Objectives: To perform a comprehensive assessment of methylation marks in DNA from subjects well phenotyped for nonneoplastic lung disease.
Methods: We conducted array-based methylation screens, using a test-replication approach, in two family-based cohorts (n = 1,085 and 369 subjects).
Measurements and Main Results: We observed 349 CpG sites significantly associated with the presence and severity of COPD in both cohorts. Seventy percent of the associated CpG sites were outside of CpG islands, with the majority of CpG sites relatively hypomethylated. Gene ontology analysis based on these 349 CpGs (330 genes) suggested the involvement of a number of genes responsible for immune and inflammatory system pathways, responses to stress and external stimuli, as well as wound healing and coagulation cascades. Interestingly, our observations include significant, replicable associations between SERPINA1 hypomethylation and COPD and lower average lung function phenotypes (combined P values: COPD, 1.5 × 10−23; FEV1/FVC, 1.5 × 10−35; FEV1, 2.2 × 10−40).
Conclusions: Genetic and epigenetic pathways may both contribute to COPD. Many of the top associations between COPD and DNA methylation occur in biologically plausible pathways. This large-scale analysis suggests that DNA methylation may be a biomarker of COPD and may highlight new pathways of COPD pathogenesis.
doi:10.1164/rccm.201108-1382OC
PMCID: PMC3297093  PMID: 22161163
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; epigenetics; DNA methylation; smoking
18.  A genome-wide association study of COPD identifies a susceptibility locus on chromosome 19q13 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;21(4):947-957.
The genetic risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are still largely unknown. To date, genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of limited size have identified several novel risk loci for COPD at CHRNA3/CHRNA5/IREB2, HHIP and FAM13A; additional loci may be identified through larger studies. We performed a GWAS using a total of 3499 cases and 1922 control subjects from four cohorts: the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints (ECLIPSE); the Normative Aging Study (NAS) and National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT); Bergen, Norway (GenKOLS); and the COPDGene study. Genotyping was performed on Illumina platforms with additional markers imputed using 1000 Genomes data; results were summarized using fixed-effect meta-analysis. We identified a new genome-wide significant locus on chromosome 19q13 (rs7937, OR = 0.74, P = 2.9 × 10−9). Genotyping this single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and another nearby SNP in linkage disequilibrium (rs2604894) in 2859 subjects from the family-based International COPD Genetics Network study (ICGN) demonstrated supportive evidence for association for COPD (P = 0.28 and 0.11 for rs7937 and rs2604894), pre-bronchodilator FEV1 (P = 0.08 and 0.04) and severe (GOLD 3&4) COPD (P = 0.09 and 0.017). This region includes RAB4B, EGLN2, MIA and CYP2A6, and has previously been identified in association with cigarette smoking behavior.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddr524
PMCID: PMC3298111  PMID: 22080838
19.  Stem cell-based therapy for α1-antitrypsin deficiency 
Human induced pluripotent stem cells offer the possibility of generating unlimited quantities of cells for autologous transplantation. By correcting the genetic defect underlying Z-allele α1-antitrypsin deficiency, we recently provided the first proof of principle for application of human induced pluripotent stem cells in the treatment of inherited genetic disorders. Several important safety concerns will need to be addressed before this can be translated into clinical practice.
doi:10.1186/scrt95
PMCID: PMC3340548  PMID: 22340671
20.  Blood Eosinophils to Direct Corticosteroid Treatment of Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Rationale: Exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and responses to treatment are heterogeneous.
Objectives: Investigate the usefulness of blood eosinophils to direct corticosteroid therapy during exacerbations.
Methods: Subjects with COPD exacerbations were entered into a randomized biomarker-directed double-blind corticosteroid versus standard therapy study. Subjects in the standard arm received prednisolone for 2 weeks, whereas in the biomarker-directed arm, prednisolone or matching placebo was given according to the blood eosinophil count biomarker. Both study groups received antibiotics. Blood eosinophils were measured in the biomarker-directed and standard therapy arms to define biomarker-positive and -negative exacerbations (blood eosinophil count > and ≤ 2%, respectively). The primary outcome was to determine noninferiority in health status using the chronic respiratory questionnaire (CRQ) and in the proportion of exacerbations associated with a treatment failure between subjects allocated to the biomarker-directed and standard therapy arms.
Measurements and Main Results: There were 86 and 80 exacerbations in the biomarker-directed and standard treatment groups, respectively. In the biomarker-directed group, 49% of the exacerbations were not treated with prednisolone. CRQ improvement after treatment in the standard and biomarker-directed therapy groups was similar (0.8 vs. 1.1; mean difference, 0.3; 95% confidence interval, 0.0–0.6; P = 0.05). There was a greater improvement in CRQ in biomarker-negative exacerbations given placebo compared with those given prednisolone (mean difference, 0.45; 95% confidence interval, 0.01–0.90; P = 0.04). In biomarker-negative exacerbations, treatment failures occurred in 15% given prednisolone and 2% of those given placebo (P = 0.04).
Conclusions: The peripheral blood eosinophil count is a promising biomarker to direct corticosteroid therapy during COPD exacerbations, but larger studies are required.
Clinical trial registered with www.controlled-trials.com (ISRCTN92422949).
doi:10.1164/rccm.201108-1553OC
PMCID: PMC3400995  PMID: 22447964
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; exacerbations; prednisolone; infection; eosinophils
21.  The Association of Genome-Wide Significant Spirometric Loci with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Susceptibility 
Two recent metaanalyses of genome-wide association studies conducted by the CHARGE and SpiroMeta consortia identified novel loci yielding evidence of association at or near genome-wide significance (GWS) with FEV1 and FEV1/FVC. We hypothesized that a subset of these markers would also be associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) susceptibility. Thirty-two single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in or near 17 genes in 11 previously identified GWS spirometric genomic regions were tested for association with COPD status in four COPD case-control study samples (NETT/NAS, the Norway case-control study, ECLIPSE, and the first 1,000 subjects in COPDGene; total sample size, 3,456 cases and 1,906 controls). In addition to testing the 32 spirometric GWS SNPs, we tested a dense panel of imputed HapMap2 SNP markers from the 17 genes located near the 32 GWS SNPs and in a set of 21 well studied COPD candidate genes. Of the previously identified GWS spirometric genomic regions, three loci harbored SNPs associated with COPD susceptibility at a 5% false discovery rate: the 4q24 locus including FLJ20184/INTS12/GSTCD/NPNT, the 6p21 locus including AGER and PPT2, and the 5q33 locus including ADAM19. In conclusion, markers previously associated at or near GWS with spirometric measures were tested for association with COPD status in data from four COPD case-control studies, and three loci showed evidence of association with COPD susceptibility at a 5% false discovery rate.
doi:10.1165/rcmb.2011-0055OC
PMCID: PMC3262664  PMID: 21659657
22.  Identification of FGF7 as a novel susceptibility locus for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
Thorax  2011;66(12):1085-1090.
Rationale
Traditional genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of large cohort of subjects with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have successfully identified novel candidate genes, but several other plausible loci do not meet strict criteria for genome-wide significance after correction for multiple testing.
Objectives
We hypothesize that by applying unbiased weights derived from unique populations we can identify additional COPD susceptibility loci.
Methods
We performed a homozygosity haplotype analysis on a group of subjects with and without COPD to identify regions of conserved homozygosity (RCHH). Weights were constructed based on the frequency of these RCHH in case vs. controls, and used to adjust the P values from a large collaborative GWAS of COPD.
Results
We identified 2,318 regions of conserved homozygosity, of which 576 were significantly (P < .05) overrepresented in cases. After applying the weights constructed from these regions to a collaborative GWAS of COPD, we identified two single nucleotide polymorphisms in a novel gene (FGF7) that gained genome-wide significance by the false discovery rate method. In a follow-up analysis, both SNPs (rs12591300 and rs4480740) were significantly associated with COPD in an independent population (combined P values of 7.9E-07 and 2.8E-06 respectively). In another independent population, increased lung tissue FGF7 expression was associated with worse measures of lung function.
Conclusion
Weights constructed from a homozygosity haplotype analysis of an isolated population successfully identify novel genetic associations from a GWAS on a separate population. This method can be used to identify promising candidate genes that fail to meet strict correction for multiple testing.
doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2011-200017
PMCID: PMC3348619  PMID: 21921092
23.  Genome-wide association study of smoking behaviors in COPD patients 
Thorax  2011;66(10):894-902.
Background
Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for COPD and COPD severity. Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified numerous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with the number of cigarettes smoked per day (CPD) and a Dopamine Beta-Hydroxylase (DBH) locus associated with smoking cessation in multiple populations.
Objective
To identify SNPs associated with lifetime average and current CPD, age at smoking initiation, and smoking cessation in COPD subjects.
Methods
GWAS were conducted in 4 independent cohorts encompassing 3,441 ever-smoking COPD subjects (GOLD stage II or higher). Untyped SNPs were imputed using HapMap (phase II) panel. Results from all cohorts were meta-analyzed.
Results
Several SNPs near the HLA region on chromosome 6p21 and in an intergenic region on chromosome 2q21 showed associations with age at smoking initiation, both with the lowest p=2×10−7. No SNPs were associated with lifetime average CPD, current CPD or smoking cessation with p<10−6. Nominally significant associations with candidate SNPs within alpha-nicotinic acetylcholine receptors 3/5 (CHRNA3/CHRNA5; e.g. p=0.00011 for SNP rs1051730) and Cytochrome P450 2A6 (CYP2A6; e.g. p=2.78×10−5 for a nonsynonymous SNP rs1801272) regions were observed for lifetime average CPD, however only CYP2A6 showed evidence of significant association with current CPD. A candidate SNP (rs3025343) in the DBH was significantly (p=0.015) associated with smoking cessation.
Conclusion
We identified two candidate regions associated with age at smoking initiation in COPD subjects. Associations of CHRNA3/CHRNA5 and CYP2A6 loci with CPD and DBH with smoking cessation are also likely of importance in the smoking behaviors of COPD patients.
doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2011-200154
PMCID: PMC3302576  PMID: 21685187
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD); Genome Wide Association study (GWAS); smoking behaviors; Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP)
24.  Genome-Wide Association Analysis of Body Mass in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Cachexia, whether assessed by body mass index (BMI) or fat-free mass index (FFMI), affects a significant proportion of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and is an independent risk factor for increased mortality, increased emphysema, and more severe airflow obstruction. The variable development of cachexia among patients with COPD suggests a role for genetic susceptibility. The objective of the present study was to determine genetic susceptibility loci involved in the development of low BMI and FFMI in subjects with COPD. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) of BMI was conducted in three independent cohorts of European descent with Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease stage II or higher COPD: Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate End-Points (ECLIPSE; n = 1,734); Norway-Bergen cohort (n = 851); and a subset of subjects from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT; n = 365). A genome-wide association of FFMI was conducted in two of the cohorts (ECLIPSE and Norway). In the combined analyses, a significant association was found between rs8050136, located in the first intron of the fat mass and obesity–associated (FTO) gene, and BMI (P = 4.97 × 10−7) and FFMI (P = 1.19 × 10−7). We replicated the association in a fourth, independent cohort consisting of 502 subjects with COPD from COPDGene (P = 6 × 10−3). Within the largest contributing cohort of our analysis, lung function, as assessed by forced expiratory volume at 1 second, varied significantly by FTO genotype. Our analysis suggests a potential role for the FTO locus in the determination of anthropomorphic measures associated with COPD.
doi:10.1165/rcmb.2010-0294OC
PMCID: PMC3266061  PMID: 21037115
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease genetics; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease epidemiology; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease metabolism; genome-wide association study
25.  SOX5 Is a Candidate Gene for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Susceptibility and Is Necessary for Lung Development 
Rationale: Chromosome 12p has been linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study (BEOCOPD), but a susceptibility gene in that region has not been identified.
Objectives: We used high-density single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) mapping to implicate a COPD susceptibility gene and an animal model to determine the potential role of SOX5 in lung development and COPD.
Methods: On chromosome 12p, we genotyped 1,387 SNPs in 386 COPD cases from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial and 424 control smokers from the Normative Aging Study. SNPs with significant associations were then tested in the BEOCOPD study and the International COPD Genetics Network. Based on the human results, we assessed histology and gene expression in the lungs of Sox5−/− mice.
Measurements and Main Results: In the case-control analysis, 27 SNPs were significant at P ≤ 0.01. The most significant SNP in the BEOCOPD replication was rs11046966 (National Emphysema Treatment Trial–Normative Aging Study P = 6.0 × 10−4, BEOCOPD P = 1.5 × 10−5, combined P = 1.7 × 10−7), located 3′ to the gene SOX5. Association with rs11046966 was not replicated in the International COPD Genetics Network. Sox5−/− mice showed abnormal lung development, with a delay in maturation before the saccular stage, as early as E16.5. Lung pathology in Sox5−/− lungs was associated with a decrease in fibronectin expression, an extracellular matrix component critical for branching morphogenesis.
Conclusions: Genetic variation in the transcription factor SOX5 is associated with COPD susceptibility. A mouse model suggests that the effect may be due, in part, to its effects on lung development and/or repair processes.
doi:10.1164/rccm.201010-1751OC
PMCID: PMC3137139  PMID: 21330457
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; emphysema; knockout mice; lung development; single nucleotide polymorphism

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