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1.  The impact of genetic variation and cigarette smoke on DNA methylation in current and former smokers from the COPDGene study 
Epigenetics  2015;10(11):1064-1073.
DNA methylation can be affected by systemic exposures, such as cigarette smoking and genetic sequence variation; however, the relative impact of each on the epigenome is unknown. We aimed to assess if cigarette smoking and genetic variation are associated with overlapping or distinct sets of DNA methylation marks and pathways. We selected 85 Caucasian current and former smokers with genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping available from the COPDGene study.  Genome-wide methylation was obtained on DNA from whole blood using the Illumina HumanMethylation27 platform. To determine the impact of local sequence variation on DNA methylation (mQTL), we examined the association between methylation and SNPs within 50 kb of each CpG site.  To examine the impact of cigarette smoking on DNA methylation, we examined the differences in methylation by current cigarette smoking status. We detected 770 CpG sites annotated to 708 genes associated at an FDR < 0.05 in the cis-mQTL analysis and 1,287 CpG sites annotated to 1,242 genes, which were nominally associated in the smoking-CpG association analysis (Punadjusted < 0.05). Forty-three CpG sites annotated to 40 genes were associated with both SNP variation and current smoking; this overlap was not greater than that expected by chance. Our results suggest that cigarette smoking and genetic variants impact distinct sets of DNA methylation marks, the further elucidation of which may partially explain the variable susceptibility to the health effects of cigarette smoking. Ascertaining how genetic variation and systemic exposures differentially impact the human epigenome has relevance for both biomarker identification and therapeutic target development for smoking-related diseases.
PMCID: PMC4844199  PMID: 26646902
cis-mQTL; CpG site; epigenetics; environmental factor; genetic variant
2.  Fetal lung and placental methylation is associated with in utero nicotine exposure 
Epigenetics  2014;9(11):1473-1484.
In utero smoke exposure has been shown to have detrimental effects on lung function and to be associated with persistent wheezing and asthma in children. One potential mechanism of IUS effects could be alterations in DNA methylation, which may have life-long implications. The goal of this study was to examine the association between DNA methylation and nicotine exposure in fetal lung and placental tissue in early development; nicotine exposure in this analysis represents a likely surrogate for in-utero smoke. We performed an epigenome-wide analysis of DNA methylation in fetal lung tissue (n = 85, 41 smoke exposed (48%), 44 controls) and the corresponding placental tissue samples (n = 80, 39 smoke exposed (49%), 41 controls) using the Illumina HumanMethylation450 BeadChip array. Differential methylation analyses were conducted to evaluate the variation associated with nicotine exposure. The most significant CpG sites in the fetal lung analysis mapped to the PKP3 (P = 2.94 × 10−03), ANKRD33B (P = 3.12 × 10−03), CNTD2 (P = 4.9 × 10−03) and DPP10 (P = 5.43 × 10−03) genes. In the placental methylome, the most significant CpG sites mapped to the GTF2H2C and GTF2H2D genes (P = 2.87 × 10−06 − 3.48 × 10−05). One hundred and one unique CpG sites with P-values < 0.05 were concordant between lung and placental tissue analyses. Gene Set Enrichment Analysis demonstrated enrichment of specific disorders, such as asthma and immune disorders. Our findings demonstrate an association between in utero nicotine exposure and variable DNA methylation in fetal lung and placental tissues, suggesting a role for DNA methylation variation in the fetal origins of chronic diseases.
PMCID: PMC4623268  PMID: 25482056
asthma; developmental biology; epigenomics; nicotine and DNA methylation; smoking
3.  Determinants of airflow obstruction in severe alpha‐1‐antitrypsin deficiency 
Thorax  2007;62(9):806-813.
Severe α1‐antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency is an autosomal recessive genetic condition associated with an increased but variable risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A study was undertaken to assess the impact of chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma and sex on the development of COPD in individuals with severe AAT deficiency.
The AAT Genetic Modifier Study is a multicentre family‐based cohort study designed to study the genetic and epidemiological determinants of COPD in AAT deficiency. 378 individuals (age range 33–80 years), confirmed to be homozygous for the SERPINA1 Z mutation, were included in the analyses. The primary outcomes of interest were a quantitative outcome, forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) percentage predicted, and a qualitative outcome, severe airflow obstruction (FEV1 <50% predicted).
In multivariate analysis of the overall cohort, cigarette smoking, sex, asthma, chronic bronchitis and pneumonia were risk factors for reduced FEV1 percentage predicted and severe airflow obstruction (p<0.01). Index cases had lower FEV1 values, higher smoking histories and more reports of adult asthma, pneumonia and asthma before age 16 than non‐index cases (p<0.01). Men had lower pre‐ and post‐bronchodilator FEV1 percentage predicted than women (p<0.0001); the lowest FEV1 values were observed in men reporting a history of childhood asthma (26.9%). This trend for more severe obstruction in men remained when index and non‐index groups were examined separately, with men representing the majority of non‐index individuals with airflow obstruction (71%). Chronic bronchitis (OR 3.8, CI 1.8 to 12.0) and a physician's report of asthma (OR 4.2, CI 1.4 to 13.1) were predictors of severe airflow obstruction in multivariate analysis of non‐index men but not women.
In individuals with severe AAT deficiency, sex, asthma, chronic bronchitis and pneumonia are risk factors for severe COPD, in addition to cigarette smoking. These results suggest that, in subjects severely deficient in AAT, men, individuals with symptoms of chronic bronchitis and/or a past diagnosis of asthma or pneumonia may benefit from closer monitoring and potentially earlier treatment.
PMCID: PMC2117297  PMID: 17389752
5.  Cluster Analysis in the COPDGene Study Identifies Subtypes of Smokers with Distinct Patterns of Airway Disease and Emphysema 
Thorax  2014;69(5):416-423.
There is notable heterogeneity in the clinical presentation of patients with COPD. To characterize this heterogeneity, we sought to identify subgroups of smokers by applying cluster analysis to data from the COPDGene Study.
We applied a clustering method, k-means, to data from 10,192 smokers in the COPDGene Study. After splitting the sample into a training and validation set, we evaluated three sets of input features across a range of k (user-specified number of clusters). Stable solutions were tested for association with four COPD-related measures and five genetic variants previously associated with COPD at genome-wide significance. The results were confirmed in the validation set.
We identified four clusters that can be characterized as 1) relatively resistant smokers (i.e. no/mild obstruction and minimal emphysema despite heavy smoking), 2) mild upper zone emphysema predominant, 3) airway disease predominant, and 4) severe emphysema. All clusters are strongly associated with COPD-related clinical characteristics, including exacerbations and dyspnea (p<0.001). We found strong genetic associations between the mild upper zone emphysema group and rs1980057 near HHIP, and between the severe emphysema group and rs8034191 in the chromosome 15q region (p<0.001). All significant associations were replicated at p<0.05 in the validation sample (12/12 associations with clinical measures and 2/2 genetic associations).
Cluster analysis identifies four subgroups of smokers that show robust associations with clinical characteristics of COPD and known COPD-associated genetic variants.
PMCID: PMC4004338  PMID: 24563194
6.  Characterising the association of latency with α1-antitrypsin polymerisation using a novel monoclonal antibody 
α1-Antitrypsin is primarily synthesised in the liver, circulates to the lung and protects pulmonary tissues from proteolytic damage. The Z mutant (Glu342Lys) undergoes inactivating conformational change and polymerises. Polymers are retained within the hepatocyte endoplasmic reticulum (ER) in homozygous (PiZZ) individuals, predisposing the individuals to hepatic cirrhosis and emphysema. Latency is an analogous process of inactivating, intra-molecular conformational change and may co-occur with polymerisation. However, the relationship between latency and polymerisation remained unexplored in the absence of a suitable probe. We have developed a novel monoclonal antibody specific for latent α1-antitrypsin and used it in combination with a polymer-specific antibody, to assess the association of both conformers in vitro, in disease and during augmentation therapy. In vitro kinetics analysis showed polymerisation dominated the pathway but latency could be promoted by stabilising monomeric α1-antitrypsin. Polymers were extensively produced in hepatocytes and a cell line expressing Z α1-antitrypsin but the latent protein was not detected despite manipulation of the secretory pathway. However, α1-antitrypsin augmentation therapy contains latent α1-antitrypsin, as did the plasma of 63/274 PiZZ individuals treated with augmentation therapy but 0/264 who were not receiving this medication (p < 10−14). We conclude that latent α1-antitrypsin is a by-product of the polymerisation pathway, that the intracellular folding environment is resistant to formation of the latent conformer but that augmentation therapy introduces latent α1-antitrypsin into the circulation. A suite of monoclonal antibodies and methodologies developed in this study can characterise α1-antitrypsin folding and conformational transitions, and screen methods to improve augmentation therapy.
PMCID: PMC4305080  PMID: 25462157
α1-Antitrypsin; Latency; Polymerisation; Monoclonal antibodies; Augmentation therapy
7.  Sexually-dimorphic targeting of functionally-related genes in COPD 
BMC Systems Biology  2014;8:118.
There is growing evidence that many diseases develop, progress, and respond to therapy differently in men and women. This variability may manifest as a result of sex-specific structures in gene regulatory networks that influence how those networks operate. However, there are few methods to identify and characterize differences in network structure, slowing progress in understanding mechanisms driving sexual dimorphism.
Here we apply an integrative network inference method, PANDA (Passing Attributes between Networks for Data Assimilation), to model sex-specific networks in blood and sputum samples from subjects with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). We used a jack-knifing approach to build an ensemble of likely networks for each sex. By adapting statistical methods to compare these network ensembles, we were able to identify strong differential-targeting patterns associated with functionally-related sets of genes, including those involved in mitochondrial function and energy metabolism. Network analysis also identified several potential sex- and disease-specific transcriptional regulators of these pathways.
Network analysis yielded insight into potential mechanisms driving sexual dimorphism in COPD that were not evident from gene expression analysis alone. We believe our ensemble approach to network analysis provides a principled way to capture sex-specific regulatory relationships and could be applied to identify differences in gene regulatory patterns in a wide variety of diseases and contexts.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12918-014-0118-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4269917  PMID: 25431000
Network modeling; Gene regulation; Regulatory networks; Sexual-dimorphism; Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease
8.  Non-emphysematous chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is associated with diabetes mellitus 
BMC Pulmonary Medicine  2014;14:164.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been classically divided into blue bloaters and pink puffers. The utility of these clinical subtypes is unclear. However, the broader distinction between airway-predominant and emphysema-predominant COPD may be clinically relevant. The objective was to define clinical features of emphysema-predominant and non-emphysematous COPD patients.
Current and former smokers from the Genetic Epidemiology of COPD Study (COPDGene) had chest computed tomography (CT) scans with quantitative image analysis. Emphysema-predominant COPD was defined by low attenuation area at -950 Hounsfield Units (LAA-950) ≥10%. Non-emphysematous COPD was defined by airflow obstruction with minimal to no emphysema (LAA-950 < 5%).
Out of 4197 COPD subjects, 1687 were classified as emphysema-predominant and 1817 as non-emphysematous; 693 had LAA-950 between 5–10% and were not categorized. Subjects with emphysema-predominant COPD were older (65.6 vs 60.6 years, p < 0.0001) with more severe COPD based on airflow obstruction (FEV1 44.5 vs 68.4%, p < 0.0001), greater exercise limitation (6-minute walk distance 1138 vs 1331 ft, p < 0.0001) and reduced quality of life (St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire score 43 vs 31, p < 0.0001). Self-reported diabetes was more frequent in non-emphysematous COPD (OR 2.13, p < 0.001), which was also confirmed using a strict definition of diabetes based on medication use. The association between diabetes and non-emphysematous COPD was replicated in the ECLIPSE study.
Non-emphysematous COPD, defined by airflow obstruction with a paucity of emphysema on chest CT scan, is associated with an increased risk of diabetes. COPD patients without emphysema may warrant closer monitoring for diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia and vice versa.
Trial registration identifiers: COPDGene NCT00608764, ECLIPSE NCT00292552.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2466-14-164) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4216374  PMID: 25341556
Airway disease; CT scan; Diabetes mellitus; Emphysema; Spirometry
9.  Epidemiology, genetics, and subtyping of preserved ratio impaired spirometry (PRISm) in COPDGene 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):89.
Preserved Ratio Impaired Spirometry (PRISm), defined as a reduced FEV1 in the setting of a preserved FEV1/FVC ratio, is highly prevalent and is associated with increased respiratory symptoms, systemic inflammation, and mortality. Studies investigating quantitative chest tomographic features, genetic associations, and subtypes in PRISm subjects have not been reported.
Data from current and former smokers enrolled in COPDGene (n = 10,192), an observational, cross-sectional study which recruited subjects aged 45–80 with ≥10 pack years of smoking, were analyzed. To identify epidemiological and radiographic predictors of PRISm, we performed univariate and multivariate analyses comparing PRISm subjects both to control subjects with normal spirometry and to subjects with COPD. To investigate common genetic predictors of PRISm, we performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS). To explore potential subgroups within PRISm, we performed unsupervised k-means clustering.
The prevalence of PRISm in COPDGene is 12.3%. Increased dyspnea, reduced 6-minute walk distance, increased percent emphysema and decreased total lung capacity, as well as increased segmental bronchial wall area percentage were significant predictors (p-value <0.05) of PRISm status when compared to control subjects in multivariate models. Although no common genetic variants were identified on GWAS testing, a significant association with Klinefelter’s syndrome (47XXY) was observed (p-value < 0.001). Subgroups identified through k-means clustering include a putative “COPD-subtype”, “Restrictive-subtype”, and a highly symptomatic “Metabolic-subtype”.
PRISm subjects are clinically and genetically heterogeneous. Future investigations into the pathophysiological mechanisms behind and potential treatment options for subgroups within PRISm are warranted.
Trial registration Identifier: NCT000608764.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12931-014-0089-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4256936  PMID: 25096860
Spirometry; Restriction; Lung diseases; Smoking
10.  Alu and LINE-1 methylation and lung function in the normative ageing study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(5):e001231.
To investigate the association between methylation of transposable elements Alu and long-interspersed nuclear elements (LINE-1) and lung function.
Cohort study.
Outpatient Veterans Administration facilities in greater Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Individuals from the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study, a longitudinal study of aging in men, evaluated between 1999 and 2007. The majority (97%) were white.
Primary and secondary outcome measures
Primary predictor was methylation, assessed using PCR-pyrosequencing after bisulphite treatment. Primary outcome was lung function as assessed by spirometry, performed according to American Thoracic Society/European Respiratory Society guidelines at the same visit as the blood draws.
In multivariable models adjusted for age, height, body mass index (BMI), pack-years of smoking, current smoking and race, Alu hypomethylation was associated with lower forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) (β=28 ml per 1% change in Alu methylation, p=0.017) and showed a trend towards association with a lower forced vital capacity (FVC) (β=27 ml, p=0.06) and lower FEV1/FVC (β=0.3%, p=0.058). In multivariable models adjusted for age, height, BMI, pack-years of smoking, current smoking, per cent lymphocytes, race and baseline lung function, LINE-1 hypomethylation was associated with more rapid decline of FEV1 (β=6.9 ml/year per 1% change in LINE-1 methylation, p=0.005) and of FVC (β=9.6 ml/year, p=0.002).
In multiple regression analysis, Alu hypomethylation was associated with lower lung function, and LINE-1 hypomethylation was associated with more rapid lung function decline in a cohort of older and primarily white men from North America. Future studies should aim to replicate these findings and determine if Alu or LINE-1 hypomethylation may be due to specific and modifiable environmental exposures.
PMCID: PMC3488751  PMID: 23075571
Epidemiology; Genetics
11.  Association of IREB2 and CHRNA3 polymorphisms with airflow obstruction in severe alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency 
Respiratory Research  2012;13(1):16.
The development of COPD in subjects with alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency is likely to be influenced by modifier genes. Genome-wide association studies and integrative genomics approaches in COPD have demonstrated significant associations with SNPs in the chromosome 15q region that includes CHRNA3 (cholinergic nicotine receptor alpha3) and IREB2 (iron regulatory binding protein 2).
We investigated whether SNPs in the chromosome 15q region would be modifiers for lung function and COPD in AAT deficiency.
The current analysis included 378 PIZZ subjects in the AAT Genetic Modifiers Study and a replication cohort of 458 subjects from the UK AAT Deficiency National Registry. Nine SNPs in LOC123688, CHRNA3 and IREB2 were selected for genotyping. FEV1 percent of predicted and FEV1/FVC ratio were analyzed as quantitative phenotypes. Family-based association analysis was performed in the AAT Genetic Modifiers Study. In the replication set, general linear models were used for quantitative phenotypes and logistic regression models were used for the presence/absence of emphysema or COPD.
Three SNPs (rs2568494 in IREB2, rs8034191 in LOC123688, and rs1051730 in CHRNA3) were associated with pre-bronchodilator FEV1 percent of predicted in the AAT Genetic Modifiers Study. Two SNPs (rs2568494 and rs1051730) were associated with the post-bronchodilator FEV1 percent of predicted and pre-bronchodilator FEV1/FVC ratio; SNP-by-gender interactions were observed. In the UK National Registry dataset, rs2568494 was significantly associated with emphysema in the male subgroup; significant SNP-by-smoking interactions were observed.
IREB2 and CHRNA3 are potential genetic modifiers of COPD phenotypes in individuals with severe AAT deficiency and may be sex-specific in their impact.
PMCID: PMC3306733  PMID: 22356581
CHRNA3; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Genetic association analysis; Genetic modifiers; IREB2
12.  Peripheral blood gene expression profiles in COPD subjects 
To identify non-invasive gene expression markers for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), we performed genome-wide expression profiling of peripheral blood samples from 12 subjects with significant airflow obstruction and an equal number of non-obstructed controls. RNA was isolated from Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells (PBMCs) and gene expression was assessed using Affymetrix U133 Plus 2.0 arrays.
Tests for gene expression changes that discriminate between COPD cases (FEV1< 70% predicted, FEV1/FVC < 0.7) and controls (FEV1> 80% predicted, FEV1/FVC > 0.7) were performed using Significance Analysis of Microarrays (SAM) and Bayesian Analysis of Differential Gene Expression (BADGE). Using either test at high stringency (SAM median FDR = 0 or BADGE p < 0.01) we identified differential expression for 45 known genes. Correlation of gene expression with lung function measurements (FEV1 & FEV1/FVC), using both Pearson and Spearman correlation coefficients (p < 0.05), identified a set of 86 genes. A total of 16 markers showed evidence of significant correlation (p < 0.05) with quantitative traits and differential expression between cases and controls. We further compared our peripheral gene expression markers with those we previously identified from lung tissue of the same cohort. Two genes, RP9and NAPE-PLD, were identified as decreased in COPD cases compared to controls in both lung tissue and blood. These results contribute to our understanding of gene expression changes in the peripheral blood of patients with COPD and may provide insight into potential mechanisms involved in the disease.
PMCID: PMC3164605  PMID: 21884629
Microarray; Biomarkers; PBMC
13.  Xenobiotic metabolizing enzyme gene polymorphisms predict response to lung volume reduction surgery 
Respiratory Research  2007;8(1):59.
In the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT), marked variability in response to lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) was observed. We sought to identify genetic differences which may explain some of this variability.
In 203 subjects from the NETT Genetics Ancillary Study, four outcome measures were used to define response to LVRS at six months: modified BODE index, post-bronchodilator FEV1, maximum work achieved on a cardiopulmonary exercise test, and University of California, San Diego shortness of breath questionnaire. Sixty-four single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were genotyped in five genes previously shown to be associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease susceptibility, exercise capacity, or emphysema distribution.
A SNP upstream from glutathione S-transferase pi (GSTP1; p = 0.003) and a coding SNP in microsomal epoxide hydrolase (EPHX1; p = 0.02) were each associated with change in BODE score. These effects appeared to be strongest in patients in the non-upper lobe predominant, low exercise subgroup. A promoter SNP in EPHX1 was associated with change in BODE score (p = 0.008), with the strongest effects in patients with upper lobe predominant emphysema and low exercise capacity. One additional SNP in GSTP1 and three additional SNPs in EPHX1 were associated (p < 0.05) with additional LVRS outcomes. None of these SNP effects were seen in 166 patients randomized to medical therapy.
Genetic variants in GSTP1 and EPHX1, two genes encoding xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes, were predictive of response to LVRS. These polymorphisms may identify patients most likely to benefit from LVRS.
PMCID: PMC2048957  PMID: 17686149

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