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1.  Early-Onset Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Is Associated with Female Sex, Maternal Factors, and African American Race in the COPDGene Study 
Rationale: The characterization of young adults who develop late-onset diseases may augment the detection of novel genes and promote new pathogenic insights.
Methods: We analyzed data from 2,500 individuals of African and European ancestry in the COPDGene Study. Subjects with severe, early-onset chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (n = 70, age < 55 yr, FEV1 < 50% predicted) were compared with older subjects with COPD (n = 306, age > 64 yr, FEV1 < 50% predicted).
Measurements and Main Results: Subjects with severe, early-onset COPD were predominantly females (66%), P = 0.0004. Proportionally, early-onset COPD was seen in 42% (25 of 59) of African Americans versus 14% (45 of 317) of non-Hispanic whites, P < 0.0001. Other risk factors included current smoking (56 vs. 17%, P < 0.0001) and self-report of asthma (39 vs. 25%, P = 0.008). Maternal smoking (70 vs. 44%, P = 0.0001) and maternal COPD (23 vs. 12%, P = 0.03) were reported more commonly in subjects with early-onset COPD. Multivariable regression analysis found association with African American race, odds ratio (OR), 7.5 (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.3–24; P = 0.0007); maternal COPD, OR, 4.7 (95% CI, 1.3–17; P = 0.02); female sex, OR, 3.1 (95% CI, 1.1–8.7; P = 0.03); and each pack-year of smoking, OR, 0.98 (95% CI, 0.96–1.0; P = 0.03).
Conclusions: These observations support the hypothesis that severe, early-onset COPD is prevalent in females and is influenced by maternal factors. Future genetic studies should evaluate (1) gene-by-sex interactions to address sex-specific genetic contributions and (2) gene-by-race interactions.
PMCID: PMC3175544  PMID: 21562134
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; female; African Americans
2.  Menthol cigarette smoking in the COPDGene cohort: Relationship with COPD, comorbidities and CT metrics 
Respirology (Carlton, Vic.)  2014;20(1):108-114.
Background and objective
Menthol cigarettes contain higher levels of menthol to produce a characteristic mint flavour and cooling sensation. Compared with non-menthol cigarettes, little information exists on the effects of menthol cigarette smoking on clinical and radiological characteristics of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The main objective of the present study was to examine associations between menthol cigarette use and the risk of COPD and its characteristics, such as exacerbation, comorbidities and computed tomography (CT) abnormalities.
We analysed the data from 5699 current smokers in the COPDGene cohort to evaluate whether lung function, comorbidities, exacerbations and CT parameters were different between menthol and non-menthol cigarette smokers.
There were 3758 (65.9%) who reported use of menthol cigarettes. Multivariable regression analysis revealed that younger age, female gender and African-American ethnicity were significantly associated with smoking of menthol cigarettes. No significant associations were found between menthol cigarette use and COPD, major CT findings or comorbidities, such as cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, gastro-oesophageal reflux and osteoporosis; however, menthol cigarette smokers were more likely to experience a severe exacerbation of COPD during longitudinal follow-up (odds ratio 1.29; 95% confidence interval: 1.01–1.54) compared with the non-menthol cigarette smokers.
These results confirm that menthol cigarettes are not safer than traditional cigarettes and suggest that menthol cigarette smokers may have more frequent severe exacerbations than non-menthol cigarette smokers.
PMCID: PMC4415502  PMID: 25328036
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; computed tomography; exacerbation; menthol; smoking
3.  Racial Differences in CT Phenotypes in COPD 
COPD  2013;10(1):20-27.
Whether African Americans (AA) are more susceptible to COPD than non-Hispanic Whites (NHW) and whether racial differences in disease phenotype exist is controversial. The objective is to determine racial differences in the extent of emphysema and airway remodeling in COPD.
First, 2,500 subjects enrolled in the COPDGene study were used to evaluate racial differences in quantitative CT (QCT) parameters of % emphysema, air trapping and airway wall thickness. Independent variables studied included race, age, gender, education, BMI, pack-years, smoking status, age at smoking initiation, asthma, previous work in dusty job, CT scanner and center of recruitment.
Of the 1,063 subjects with GOLD Stage II-IV COPD, 200 self-reported as AA. AAs had a lower mean % emphysema (13.1 % vs. 16.1%, p = 0.005) than NHW and proportionately less emphysema in the lower lung zones. After adjustment for covariates, there was no statistical difference by race in air trapping or airway wall thickness. Measured QCT parameters were more predictive of poor functional status in NHWs compared to AAs.
AAs have less emphysema than NHWs but the same degree of airway disease. Additional factors not easily assessed by current QCT techniques may account for the poor functional status in AAs.
PMCID: PMC4321889  PMID: 23413893
Airway wall thickness; Air trapping; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Emphysema; Quantitative CT; Race
4.  Clinical Predictors of Frequent Exacerbations in Subjects with Severe Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 
Respiratory medicine  2010;105(4):588-594.
Acute exacerbations are a significant source of morbidity and mortality associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Among patients with COPD, some patients suffer an inordinate number of exacerbations while others remain relatively protected. We undertook a study to determine the clinical factors associated with "frequent exacerbator" status within a population of subjects with severe COPD.
Case-control cohort recruited from two Boston-area practices. All subjects had GOLD stage 3 or 4 (FEV1 ≤50% predicted) COPD. "Frequent exacerbators" (n=192) had an average of ≥2 moderate-to-severe exacerbations per year while "non-exacerbators" (n=153) had no exacerbations in the preceding 12 months. Multivariate logistic regression was performed to determine the significant clinical predictors of "frequent exacerbator" status.
Physician-diagnosed asthma was a significant predictor of frequent exacerbations. Within a subset of our cohort, the modified Medical Research Council dyspnea score and FEF25–75 % predicted were also significant clinical predictors of frequent exacerbator status (p<0.05). Differences in exacerbation frequency were not found to be due to increased current tobacco use or decreased rates of maintenance medication use.
Within our severe COPD cohort, a history of physician-diagnosed asthma was found to be a significant clinical predictor of frequent exacerbations. Although traditional risk factors such as decreased FEV1% predicted were not significantly associated with frequent exacerbator status, lower mid-expiratory flow rates, as assessed by FEF 25–75 % predicted, were significantly associated with frequent exacerbations in a subset of our cohort.
PMCID: PMC3046312  PMID: 21145719
5.  Polymorphisms in Surfactant Protein–D Are Associated with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by alveolar destruction and abnormal inflammatory responses to noxious stimuli. Surfactant protein–D (SFTPD) is immunomodulatory and essential to host defense. We hypothesized that polymorphisms in SFTPD could influence the susceptibility to COPD. We genotyped six single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in surfactant protein D in 389 patients with COPD in the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT) and 472 smoking control subjects from the Normative Aging Study (NAS). Case-control association analysis was performed using Cochran–Armitage trend tests and multivariate logistic regression. The replication of significant associations was attempted in the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study, the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints (ECLIPSE) Study, and the Bergen Cohort. We also correlated SFTPD genotypes with serum concentrations of surfactant protein–D (SP-D) in the ECLIPSE Study. In the NETT–NAS case-control analysis, four SFTPD SNPs were associated with susceptibility to COPD: rs2245121 (P = 0.01), rs911887 (P = 0.006), rs6413520 (P = 0.004), and rs721917 (P = 0.006). In the family-based analysis of the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study, rs911887 was associated with prebronchodilator and postbronchodilator FEV1 (P = 0.003 and P = 0.02, respectively). An intronic SNP in SFTPD, rs7078012, was associated with COPD in the ECLIPSE Study and the Bergen Cohort. Multiple SFTPD SNPs were associated with serum SP-D concentrations in the ECLIPSE Study. We demonstrated an association of polymorphisms in SFTPD with COPD in multiple populations. We demonstrated a correlation between SFTPD SNPs and SP-D protein concentrations. The SNPs associated with COPD and SP-D concentrations differed, suggesting distinct genetic influences on susceptibility to COPD and SP-D concentrations.
PMCID: PMC3095932  PMID: 20448057
COPD; surfactant protein–D; single-nucleotide polymorphisms; genetics
6.  Associations of IL6 polymorphisms with lung function decline and COPD 
Thorax  2009;64(8):698-704.
Interleukin-6 (IL6) is a pleiotropic pro-inflammatory and immunomodulatory cytokine which likely plays an important role in the pathogenesis of COPD. There is a functional single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), −174G/C, in the promoter region of IL6. We hypothesized that IL6 SNPs influence susceptibility for impaired lung function and COPD in smokers.
Seven and 5 SNPs in IL6 were genotyped in two nested case-control samples derived from the Lung Health Study (LHS) based on phenotypes of rate of decline of forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) over 5 years and baseline FEV1 at the beginning of the LHS. Serum IL6 concentrations were measured for all subjects. A partially overlapping panel of 9 IL6 SNPs was genotyped in 389 COPD cases from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT) and 420 controls from the Normative Aging Study (NAS).
In the LHS, three IL6 SNPs were associated with FEV1 decline (0.023 ≤ P ≤ 0.041 in additive models). Among them the IL6_−174C allele was associated with rapid decline of lung function. The association was more significant in a genotype-based analysis (P = 0.006). In the NETT-NAS study, IL6_−174G/C and four other IL6 SNPs, all of which are in linkage disequilibrium with IL6_−174G/C, were associated with susceptibility to COPD (0.01 ≤ P ≤ 0.04 in additive genetic models).
Our results suggest that the IL6_−174G/C SNP is associated with rapid decline of FEV1 and susceptibility to COPD in smokers.
PMCID: PMC2859187  PMID: 19359268
genetic polymorphism; IL6; forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1); lung function; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
7.  Polymorphic Variation in Surfactant Protein B is Associated with COPD Exacerbations 
COPD exacerbations reduce quality of life and increase mortality. Genetic variation may explain the substantial variability seen in exacerbation frequency among COPD subjects with similar lung function. We analyzed whether polymorphisms in five candidate genes previously associated with COPD susceptibility also demonstrate association with COPD exacerbations.
Eighty-eight single nucleotide polymorphisms in microsomal epoxide hydrolase (EPHX1), transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFB1), SERPINE2, glutathione S-transferase pi (GSTP1), and surfactant protein B (SFTPB) were genotyped in 389 non-Hispanic white participants in the National Emphysema Treatment Trial. Exacerbations were defined as COPD-related emergency room visits or hospitalizations using Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services claims data.
Measurements and Main Results
216 subjects (56%) experienced one or more exacerbations during the study period. An SFTPB promoter polymorphism, rs3024791, was associated with COPD exacerbations (p=0.008). Logistic regression models confirmed the association with rs3024791 (p = 0.007). Poisson regression models demonstrated association of multiple SFTPB SNPs with exacerbation rates: rs2118177 (p = 0.006), rs2304566 (p = 0.002), rs1130866 (p = 0.04), and rs3024791 (p = 0.002). Polymorphisms in EPHX1, GSTP1, TGFB1, and SERPINE2 did not demonstrate association with COPD exacerbations.
Variants in SFTPB are associated with COPD susceptibility and COPD exacerbation frequency.
PMCID: PMC2761762  PMID: 18550614
association analysis; COPD; exacerbations; genetics; surfactant protein B; single nucleotide polymorphisms

Results 1-7 (7)