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1.  Identification of a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease genetic determinant that regulates HHIP 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;21(6):1325-1335.
Multiple intergenic single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) near hedgehog interacting protein (HHIP) on chromosome 4q31 have been strongly associated with pulmonary function levels and moderate-to-severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, whether the effects of variants in this region are related to HHIP or another gene has not been proven. We confirmed genetic association of SNPs in the 4q31 COPD genome-wide association study (GWAS) region in a Polish cohort containing severe COPD cases and healthy smoking controls (P = 0.001 to 0.002). We found that HHIP expression at both mRNA and protein levels is reduced in COPD lung tissues. We identified a genomic region located ∼85 kb upstream of HHIP which contains a subset of associated SNPs, interacts with the HHIP promoter through a chromatin loop and functions as an HHIP enhancer. The COPD risk haplotype of two SNPs within this enhancer region (rs6537296A and rs1542725C) was associated with statistically significant reductions in HHIP promoter activity. Moreover, rs1542725 demonstrates differential binding to the transcription factor Sp3; the COPD-associated allele exhibits increased Sp3 binding, which is consistent with Sp3's usual function as a transcriptional repressor. Thus, increased Sp3 binding at a functional SNP within the chromosome 4q31 COPD GWAS locus leads to reduced HHIP expression and increased susceptibility to COPD through distal transcriptional regulation. Together, our findings reveal one mechanism through which SNPs upstream of the HHIP gene modulate the expression of HHIP and functionally implicate reduced HHIP gene expression in the pathogenesis of COPD.
PMCID: PMC3284120  PMID: 22140090
2.  Genome-wide association study reveals class I MHC–restricted T cell–associated molecule gene (CRTAM) variants interact with vitamin D levels to affect asthma exacerbations 
It has recently been shown that vitamin D deficiency can increase asthma development and severity and that variations in vitamin D receptor genes are associated with asthma susceptibility.
We sought to find genetic factors that might interact with vitamin D levels to affect the risk of asthma exacerbation. Methods: We conducted a genome-wide study of gene–vitamin D interaction on asthma exacerbations using population-based and family-based approaches on 403 subjects and trios from the Childhood Asthma Management Program. Twenty-three polymorphisms with significant interactions were studied in a replication analysis in 584 children from a Costa Rican cohort. Results: We identified 3 common variants in the class I MHC–restricted T cell–associated molecule gene (CRTAM) that were associated with an increased rate of asthma exacerbations based on the presence of a low circulating vitamin D level. These results were replicated in a second independent population (unadjusted combined interaction, P =.00028–.00097; combined odds ratio, 3.28–5.38). One variant, rs2272094, is a nonsynonymous coding polymorphism of CRTAM. Functional studies on cell lines confirmed the interaction of vitamin D and rs2272094 on CRTAM expression. CRTAM is highly expressed in activated human CD8+ and natural killer T cells, both of which have been implicated in asthmatic patients.
The findings highlight an important gene-environment interaction that elucidates the role of vitamin D and CD8+ and natural killer T cells in asthma exacerbation in a genome-wide gene-environment interaction study that has been replicated in an independent population. The results suggest the potential importance of maintaining adequate vitamin D levels in subsets of high-risk asthmatic patients.
PMCID: PMC3360942  PMID: 22051697
Gene-environment interaction; genome-wide association study; vitamin D; asthma exacerbation
3.  Genome-Wide Association Analysis in Asthma Subjects Identifies SPATS2L as a Novel Bronchodilator Response Gene 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(7):e1002824.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3390407  PMID: 22792082
4.  TSLP Polymorphisms are Associated with Asthma in a Sex-Specific Fashion 
Allergy  2010;65(12):1566-1575.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) have been associated with IgE (in girls) and asthma (in general). We sought to determine whether TSLP SNPs are associated with asthma in a sex-specific fashion.
We conducted regular and sex-stratified analyses of association between SNPs in TSLP and asthma in families of asthmatic children in Costa Rica. Significant findings were replicated in white and African-American participants in the Childhood Asthma Management Program, in African Americans in the Genomic Research on Asthma in the African Diaspora study, in whites and Hispanics in the Children’s Health Study, and in whites in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS).
Main Results
Two SNPs in TSLP (rs1837253 and rs2289276) were significantly associated with a reduced risk of asthma in combined analyses of all cohorts (p values of 2×10−5 and 1×10−5, respectively). In a sex-stratified analysis, the T allele of rs1837253 was significantly associated with a reduced risk of asthma in males only (p= 3×10−6). Alternately, the T allele of rs2289276 was significantly associated with a reduced risk of asthma in females only (p= 2×10−4). Findings for rs2289276 were consistent in all cohorts except the FHS.
TSLP variants are associated with asthma in a sex-specific fashion.
PMCID: PMC2970693  PMID: 20560908
asthma; genetic association; sex-specific; thymic stromal lymphopoietin; TSLP
5.  MMP12, Lung Function, and COPD in High-Risk Populations 
The New England journal of medicine  2009;361(27):2599-2608.
Genetic variants influencing lung function in children and adults may ultimately lead to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), particularly in high-risk groups.
We tested for an association between single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the gene encoding matrix metalloproteinase 12 (MMP12) and a measure of lung function (prebronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 second [FEV1]) in more than 8300 subjects in seven cohorts that included children and adults. Within the Normative Aging Study (NAS), a cohort of initially healthy adult men, we tested for an association between SNPs that were associated with FEV1 and the time to the onset of COPD. We then examined the relationship between MMP12 SNPs and COPD in two cohorts of adults with COPD or at risk for COPD.
The minor allele (G) of a functional variant in the promoter region of MMP12 (rs2276109 [−82A→G]) was positively associated with FEV1 in a combined analysis of children with asthma and adult former and current smokers in all cohorts (P=2×10−6). This allele was also associated with a reduced risk of the onset of COPD in the NAS cohort (hazard ratio, 0.65; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.46 to 0.92; P = 0.02) and with a reduced risk of COPD in a cohort of smokers (odds ratio, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.45 to 0.88; P = 0.005) and among participants in a family-based study of early-onset COPD (P = 0.006).
The minor allele of a SNP in MMP12 (rs2276109) is associated with a positive effect on lung function in children with asthma and in adults who smoke. This allele is also associated with a reduced risk of COPD in adult smokers.
PMCID: PMC2904064  PMID: 20018959
6.  Assessing the Reproducibility of Asthma Candidate Gene Associations, Using Genome-wide Data 
Rationale: Association studies have implicated many genes in asthma pathogenesis, with replicated associations between single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and asthma reported for more than 30 genes. Genome-wide genotyping enables simultaneous evaluation of most of this variation, and facilitates more comprehensive analysis of other common genetic variation around these candidate genes for association with asthma.
Objectives: To use available genome-wide genotypic data to assess the reproducibility of previously reported associations with asthma and to evaluate the contribution of additional common genetic variation surrounding these loci to asthma susceptibility.
Methods: Illumina Human Hap 550Kv3 BeadChip (Illumina, San Diego, CA) SNP arrays were genotyped in 422 nuclear families participating in the Childhood Asthma Management Program. Genes with at least one SNP demonstrating prior association with asthma in two or more populations were tested for evidence of association with asthma, using family-based association testing.
Measurements and Main Results: We identified 39 candidate genes from the literature, using prespecified criteria. Of the 160 SNPs previously genotyped in these 39 genes, 10 SNPs in 6 genes were significantly associated with asthma (including the first independent replication for asthma-associated integrin β3 [ITGB3]). Evaluation of 619 additional common variants included in the Illumina 550K array revealed additional evidence of asthma association for 15 genes, although none were significant after adjustment for multiple comparisons.
Conclusions: We replicated asthma associations for a minority of candidate genes. Pooling genome-wide association study results from multiple studies will increase the power to appreciate marginal effects of genes and further clarify which candidates are true “asthma genes.”
PMCID: PMC2695495  PMID: 19264973
asthma; replication; single-nucleotide polymorphism; integrin β3; association
7.  Variants in TGFB1, Dust Mite Exposure, and Disease Severity in Children with Asthma 
Rationale: Polymorphisms in the gene for transforming growth factor-β1 (TGFB1) have been associated with asthma, but not with airway responsiveness or disease exacerbations in subjects with asthma.
Objectives: To test for association between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in TGFB1 and markers of asthma severity in childhood.
Methods: We tested for the association between nine SNPs in TGFB1 and indicators of asthma severity (lung function, airway responsiveness, and disease exacerbations) in two cohorts: 416 Costa Rican parent-child trios and 465 families of non-Hispanic white children in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP). We also tested for the interaction between these polymorphisms and exposure to dust mite allergen on asthma severity.
Measurements and Main Results: The A allele of promoter SNP rs2241712 was associated with increased airway responsiveness in Costa Rica (P = 0.0006) and CAMP (P = 0.005), and the C allele of an SNP in the promoter region (rs1800469) was associated with increased airway responsiveness in both cohorts (P ≤ 0.01). Dust mite exposure modified the effect of the C allele of exonic SNP rs1800471 on airway responsiveness (P = 0.03 for interactions in both cohorts). The T allele of a coding SNP (rs1982073) was associated with a reduced risk of asthma exacerbations in Costa Rica (P = 0.009) and CAMP (P = 0.005). Dust mite exposure also significantly modified the effect of the A allele of the promoter SNP rs2241712 on asthma exacerbations in both cohorts.
Conclusions: SNPs in TGFB1 are associated with airway responsiveness and disease exacerbations in children with asthma. Moreover, dust mite exposure may modify the effect of TGFB1 SNPs on airway responsiveness and asthma exacerbations.
PMCID: PMC2648908  PMID: 19096005
airway responsiveness; asthma; dust mite allergen; single nucleotide polymorphisms; transforming growth factor-β1
8.  Comprehensive Testing of Positionally Cloned Asthma Genes in Two Populations 
Rationale: Replication of gene-disease associations has become a requirement in complex trait genetics.
Objectives: In studies of childhood asthma from two different ethnic groups, we attempted to replicate associations with five potential asthma susceptibility genes previously identified by positional cloning.
Methods: We analyzed two family-based samples ascertained through an asthmatic proband: 497 European-American children from the Childhood Asthma Management Program and 439 Hispanic children from the Central Valley of Costa Rica. We genotyped 98 linkage disequilibrium–tagging single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in five genes: ADAM33, DPP10, GPR154 (HUGO name: NPSR1), HLA-G, and the PHF11 locus (includes genes SETDB2 and RCBTB1). SNPs were tested for association with asthma and two intermediate phenotypes: airway hyperresponsiveness and total serum immunoglobulin E levels.
Measurements and Main Results: Despite differing ancestries, linkage disequilibrium patterns were similar in both cohorts. Of the five evaluated genes, SNP-level replication was found only for GPR154 (NPSR1). In this gene, three SNPs were associated with asthma in both cohorts, although the opposite alleles were associated in either study. Weak evidence for locus-level replication with asthma was found in the PHF11 locus, although there was no overlap in the associated SNP across the two cohorts. No consistent associations were observed for the three other genes.
Conclusions: These results provide some further support for the role of genetic variation in GPR154 (NPSR1) and PHF11 in asthma susceptibility and also highlight the challenges of replicating genetic associations in complex traits such as asthma, even for genes identified by linkage analysis.
PMCID: PMC2048676  PMID: 17702965
bronchial hyperreactivity; immunoglobulin E; linkage disequilibrium; NPSR1; single-nucleotide polymorphism

Results 1-8 (8)