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1.  CTNNA3 and SEMA3D: promising loci for asthma exacerbation identified through multiple GWAS 
Asthma exacerbations are a major cause of morbidity and medical cost.
The objective of this study was to identify genetic predictors of exacerbations in subjects with asthma.
We performed GWAS meta analysis of acute asthma exacerbation in two pediatric clinical trials: Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP, n=581) and Childhood Asthma Research and Education (CARE, n=205) network trials. Acute asthma exacerbations was defined as treatment with a five-day course of oral steroids. We obtained a replication cohort from BioVU (n=786), the Vanderbilt University electronic medical record-linked DNA biobank. We used CD4+ lymphocyte genome-wide mRNA expression profiling to identify associations of top SNPs with mRNA abundance of nearby genes.
A locus in CTNNA3 reached genome-wide significance (rs7915695, p=2.19*10-8, mean exacerbations 6.05 for minor alleles vs. 3.71 for homozygous major). Among four top SNPs replicated in BioVU, rs993312 in SEMA3D was significant (p=0.0083), and displayed stronger association among African Americans (p=0.0004 in BioVU, mean exacerbations 3.91 vs. 1.53; p=0.0089 in CAMP, mean exacerbations 6.0 vs. 3.25). CTNNA3 variants did not replicate in BioVU. A regulatory variant in the CTNNA3 locus was associated with CTNNA3 mRNA expression in CD4+ cells from asthmatics (p=0.00079). CTNNA3 appears to be active in immune response, and SEMA3D has a plausible role in airway remodeling. We also provide a replication of a previous association of P2RX7 with asthma exacerbation.
We identified two loci associated with exacerbations through GWAS. CTNNA3 met genome-wide significance thresholds and SEMA3D replicated in a clinical Biobank database.
PMCID: PMC4676949  PMID: 26073756
Asthma; Exacerbation; GWAS; eQTL; CTNNA3; SEMA3D; BioBank; Childhood Asthma
2.  Whole genome prediction and heritability of childhood asthma phenotypes 
While whole genome prediction (WGP) methods have recently demonstrated successes in the prediction of complex genetic diseases, they have not yet been applied to asthma and related phenotypes. Longitudinal patterns of lung function differ between asthmatics, but these phenotypes have not been assessed for heritability or predictive ability. Herein, we assess the heritability and genetic predictability of asthma‐related phenotypes.
We applied several WGP methods to a well‐phenotyped cohort of 832 children with mild‐to‐moderate asthma from CAMP. We assessed narrow‐sense heritability and predictability for airway hyperresponsiveness, serum immunoglobulin E, blood eosinophil count, pre‐ and post‐bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 sec (FEV1), bronchodilator response, steroid responsiveness, and longitudinal patterns of lung function (normal growth, reduced growth, early decline, and their combinations). Prediction accuracy was evaluated using a training/testing set split of the cohort.
We found that longitudinal lung function phenotypes demonstrated significant narrow‐sense heritability (reduced growth, 95%; normal growth with early decline, 55%). These same phenotypes also showed significant polygenic prediction (areas under the curve [AUCs] 56% to 62%). Including additional demographic covariates in the models increased prediction 4–8%, with reduced growth increasing from 62% to 66% AUC. We found that prediction with a genomic relatedness matrix was improved by filtering available SNPs based on chromatin evidence, and this result extended across cohorts.
Longitudinal reduced lung function growth displayed extremely high heritability. All phenotypes with significant heritability showed significant polygenic prediction. Using SNP‐prioritization increased prediction across cohorts. WGP methods show promise in predicting asthma‐related heritable traits.
PMCID: PMC5134727  PMID: 27980782
Childhood asthma; heritability; longitudinal lung function patterns; polygenic prediction; whole‐genome prediction
3.  Measuring the Corticosteroid Responsiveness Endophenotype in Asthma 
Inhaled corticosteroids are the most commonly used controller therapies for asthma, producing treatment responses in six clinical phenotypes; lung function, bronchodilator response, airway responsiveness, symptoms, need for oral steroids and frequency of emergency department visits and hospitalizations. We hypothesize that treatment response in all of these phenotypes is modulated by a single, quantative corticosteroid responsiveness endophenotype.
To develop a composite phenotype that combines multiple clinical phenotypes to measure corticosteroid responsiveness with high accuracy, high stability across populations, and high robustness to missing data.
We employed principal component analysis (PCA) to determine a composite corticosteroid responsiveness phenotype that we tested in four replication populations. We evaluated the relative accuracy with which the composite and clinical phenotypes measure the endophenotype using treatment effect area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC).
In the study population, the composite phenotype measured the endophenotype with an AUC of 0.74, significantly exceeding the AUCs of the six individual clinical phenotypes, which ranged from 0.56 (p-value <.001) to 0.67 (p-value 0.015). In four replication populations with a total of 22 clinical phenotypes available, the composite phenotype AUC ranged from 0.69 to 0.73, significantly exceeded the AUCs of 14 phenotypes, and was not significantly exceeded by any single phenotype.
The composite phenotype measured the endophenotype with higher accuracy, higher stability across populations, and higher robustness to missing data than any clinical phenotype. This should provide the capability to model corticosteroid pharmacologic response and resistance with increased accuracy and reproducibility.
PMCID: PMC4530065  PMID: 25951964
asthma; corticosteroids; drug therapy; endophenotype; pharmacogenetics; pharmacologic response
4.  Circulating MicroRNAs: Association with Lung Function in Asthma 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(6):e0157998.
MicroRNAs are key transcriptional and network regulators previously associated with asthma susceptibility. However, their role in relation to asthma severity has not been delineated.
We hypothesized that circulating microRNAs could serve as biomarkers of changes in lung function in asthma patients.
We isolated microRNAs from serum samples obtained at randomization for 160 participants of the Childhood Asthma Management Program. Using a TaqMan microRNA array containing 754 microRNA primers, we tested for the presence of known asthma microRNAs, and assessed the association of the individual microRNAs with lung function as measured by FEV1/FVC, FEV1% and FVC%. We further tested the subset of FEV1/FVC microRNAs for sex-specific and lung developmental associations.
Of the 108 well-detected circulating microRNAs, 74 (68.5%) had previously been linked to asthma susceptibility. We found 22 (20.3%), 4 (3.7%) and 8 (7.4%) microRNAs to be associated with FEV1/FVC, FEV1% and FVC%, respectively. 8 (of 22) FEV1/FVC, 3 (of 4) FEV1% and 1 (of 8) FVC% microRNAs had functionally validated target genes that have been linked via genome wide association studies to asthma and FEV1 change. Among the 22 FEV1/FVC microRNAs, 9 (40.9%) remain associated with FEV1/FVC in boys alone in a sex-stratified analysis (compared with 3 FEV1/FVC microRNAs in girls alone), 7 (31.8%) were associated with fetal lung development, and 3 (13.6%) in both. Ontology analyses revealed enrichment for pathways integral to asthma, including PPAR signaling, G-protein coupled signaling, actin and myosin binding, and respiratory system development.
Circulating microRNAs reflect asthma biology and are associated with lung function differences in asthmatics. They may represent biomarkers of asthma severity.
PMCID: PMC4928864  PMID: 27362794
5.  A disease module in the interactome explains disease heterogeneity, drug response and captures novel pathways and genes in asthma 
Human Molecular Genetics  2015;24(11):3005-3020.
Recent advances in genetics have spurred rapid progress towards the systematic identification of genes involved in complex diseases. Still, the detailed understanding of the molecular and physiological mechanisms through which these genes affect disease phenotypes remains a major challenge. Here, we identify the asthma disease module, i.e. the local neighborhood of the interactome whose perturbation is associated with asthma, and validate it for functional and pathophysiological relevance, using both computational and experimental approaches. We find that the asthma disease module is enriched with modest GWAS P-values against the background of random variation, and with differentially expressed genes from normal and asthmatic fibroblast cells treated with an asthma-specific drug. The asthma module also contains immune response mechanisms that are shared with other immune-related disease modules. Further, using diverse omics (genomics, gene-expression, drug response) data, we identify the GAB1 signaling pathway as an important novel modulator in asthma. The wiring diagram of the uncovered asthma module suggests a relatively close link between GAB1 and glucocorticoids (GCs), which we experimentally validate, observing an increase in the level of GAB1 after GC treatment in BEAS-2B bronchial epithelial cells. The siRNA knockdown of GAB1 in the BEAS-2B cell line resulted in a decrease in the NFkB level, suggesting a novel regulatory path of the pro-inflammatory factor NFkB by GAB1 in asthma.
PMCID: PMC4447811  PMID: 25586491
6.  Glucocorticoid Genes and the Developmental Origins of Asthma Susceptibility and Treatment Response 
Antenatal corticosteroids enhance lung maturation. However, the importance of glucocorticoid genes on early lung development, asthma susceptibility, and treatment response remains unknown. We investigated whether glucocorticoid genes are important during lung development and their role in asthma susceptibility and treatment response. We identified genes that were differentially expressed by corticosteroids in two of three genomic datasets: lymphoblastoid cell lines of participants in the Childhood Asthma Management Program, a glucocorticoid chromatin immunoprecipitation/RNA sequencing experiment, or a murine model; these genes made up the glucocorticoid gene set (GCGS). Using gene expression profiles from 38 human fetal lungs and C57BL/6J murine fetal lungs, we identified developmental genes that were in the top 5% of genes contributing to the top three principal components (PCs) most highly associated with post-conceptional age. Glucocorticoid genes that were enriched in this set of developmental genes were then included in the developmental glucocorticoid gene set (DGGS). We then investigated whether glucocorticoid genes are important during lung development, and their role in asthma susceptibility and treatment response. A total of 232 genes were included in the GCGS. Analysis of gene expression demonstrated that glucocorticoid genes were enriched in lung development (P = 7.02 × 10−26). The developmental GCGS was enriched for genes that were differentially expressed between subjects with asthma and control subjects (P = 4.26 × 10−3) and were enriched after treatment of subjects with asthma with inhaled corticosteroids (P < 2.72 × 10−4). Our results show that glucocorticoid genes are overrepresented among genes implicated in fetal lung development. These genes influence asthma susceptibility and treatment response, suggesting their involvement in the early ontogeny of asthma.
PMCID: PMC4491138  PMID: 25192440
glucocorticoid genes; lung development; asthma; asthma treatment
7.  Genome-Wide Association Study of Short-Acting β2-Agonists. A Novel Genome-Wide Significant Locus on Chromosome 2 near ASB3 
Rationale: β2-Agonists are the most common form of treatment of asthma, but there is significant variability in response to these medications. A significant proportion of this responsiveness may be heritable.
Objectives: To investigate whether a genome-wide association study (GWAS) could identify novel pharmacogenetic loci in asthma.
Methods: We performed a GWAS of acute bronchodilator response (BDR) to inhaled β2-agonists. A total of 444,088 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were examined in 724 individuals from the SNP Health Association Resource (SHARe) Asthma Resource Project (SHARP). The top 50 SNPs were carried forward to replication in a population of 444 individuals.
Measurements and Main Results: The combined P value for four SNPs reached statistical genome-wide significance aftercorrecting for multiple comparisons. Combined P values for rs350729, rs1840321, rs1384918, and rs1319797 were 2.21 × 10−10, 5.75 × 10−8, 9.3 × 10−8, and 3.95 × 10−8, respectively. The significant variants all map to a novel genetic region on chromosome 2 near the ASB3 gene, a region associated with smooth muscle proliferation. As compared with the wild type, the presence of the minor alleles reduced the degree of BDR by 20% in the original population and by a similar percentage in the confirmatory population.
Conclusions: These GWAS findings for BDR in subjects with asthma suggest that a gene associated with smooth muscle proliferation may influence a proportion of the smooth muscle relaxation that occurs in asthma.
PMCID: PMC4384768  PMID: 25562107
single-nucleotide polymorphism; genotype; bronchodilator
8.  Genome-wide Interrogation of Longitudinal FEV1 in Children with Asthma 
Rationale: Most genomic studies of lung function have used phenotypic data derived from a single time-point (e.g., presence/absence of disease) without considering the dynamic progression of a chronic disease.
Objectives: To characterize lung function change over time in subjects with asthma and identify genetic contributors to a longitudinal phenotype.
Methods: We present a method that models longitudinal FEV1 data, collected from 1,041 children with asthma who participated in the Childhood Asthma Management Program. This longitudinal progression model was built using population-based nonlinear mixed-effects modeling with an exponential structure and the determinants of age and height.
Measurements and Main Results: We found ethnicity was a key covariate for FEV1 level. Budesonide-treated children with asthma had a slight but significant effect on FEV1 when compared with those treated with placebo or nedocromil (P < 0.001). A genome-wide association study identified seven single-nucleotide polymorphisms nominally associated with longitudinal lung function phenotypes in 581 white Childhood Asthma Management Program subjects (P < 10−4 in the placebo [“discovery”] and P < 0.05 in the nedocromil treatment [“replication”] group). Using ChIP-seq and RNA-seq data, we found that some of the associated variants were in strong enhancer regions in human lung fibroblasts and may affect gene expression in human lung tissue. Genetic mapping restricted to genome-wide enhancer single-nucleotide polymorphisms in lung fibroblasts revealed a highly significant variant (rs6763931; P = 4 × 10−6; false discovery rate < 0.05).
Conclusions: This study offers a strategy to explore the genetic determinants of longitudinal phenotypes, provide a comprehensive picture of disease pathophysiology, and suggest potential treatment targets.
PMCID: PMC4214107  PMID: 25221879
asthma; NONMEM; longitudinal model; FEV1
9.  Vitamin D Modulates Expression of the Airway Smooth Muscle Transcriptome in Fatal Asthma 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0134057.
Globally, asthma is a chronic inflammatory respiratory disease affecting over 300 million people. Some asthma patients remain poorly controlled by conventional therapies and experience more life-threatening exacerbations. Vitamin D, as an adjunct therapy, may improve disease control in severe asthma patients since vitamin D enhances glucocorticoid responsiveness and mitigates airway smooth muscle (ASM) hyperplasia. We sought to characterize differences in transcriptome responsiveness to vitamin D between fatal asthma- and non-asthma-derived ASM by using RNA-Seq to measure ASM transcript expression in five donors with fatal asthma and ten non-asthma-derived donors at baseline and with vitamin D treatment. Based on a Benjamini-Hochberg corrected p-value <0.05, 838 genes were differentially expressed in fatal asthma vs. non-asthma-derived ASM at baseline, and vitamin D treatment compared to baseline conditions induced differential expression of 711 and 867 genes in fatal asthma- and non-asthma-derived ASM, respectively. Functional gene categories that were highly represented in all groups included extracellular matrix, and responses to steroid hormone stimuli and wounding. Genes differentially expressed by vitamin D also included cytokine and chemokine activity categories. Follow-up qPCR and individual analyte ELISA experiments were conducted for four cytokines (i.e. CCL2, CCL13, CXCL12, IL8) to measure TNFα-induced changes by asthma status and vitamin D treatment. Vitamin D inhibited TNFα-induced IL8 protein secretion levels to a comparable degree in fatal asthma- and non-asthma-derived ASM even though IL8 had significantly higher baseline levels in fatal asthma-derived ASM. Our findings identify vitamin D-specific gene targets and provide transcriptomic data to explore differences in the ASM of fatal asthma- and non-asthma-derived donors.
PMCID: PMC4514847  PMID: 26207385
10.  CMTR1 is associated with increased asthma exacerbations in patients taking inhaled corticosteroids 
Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are the most effective controller medications for asthma, and variability in ICS response is associated with genetic variation. Despite ICS treatment, some patients with poor asthma control experience severe asthma exacerbations, defined as a hospitalization or emergency room visit. We hypothesized that some individuals may be at increased risk of asthma exacerbations, despite ICS use, due to genetic factors. A GWAS of 237,726 common, independent markers was conducted in 806 Caucasian asthmatic patients from two population‐based biobanks: BioVU, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) in Tennessee (369 patients), and Personalized Medicine Research Project (PMRP) at the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin (437 patients). Using a case–control study design, the association of each SNP locus with the outcome of asthma exacerbations (defined as asthma‐related emergency department visits or hospitalizations concurrent with oral corticosteroid use), was evaluated for each population by logistic regression analysis, adjusting for age, gender and the first four principal components. A meta‐analysis of the results was conducted. Validation of expression of selected candidate genes was determined by evaluating an independent microarray expression data set. Our study identified six novel SNPs associated with differential risk of asthma exacerbations (P < 10−05). The top GWAS result, rs2395672 in CMTR1, was associated with an increased risk of exacerbations in both populations (OR = 1.07, 95% CI 1.03–1.11; joint P = 2.3 × 10−06). Two SNPs (rs2395672 and rs279728) were associated with increased risk of exacerbations, while the remaining four SNPs (rs4271056, rs6467778, rs2691529, and rs9303988) were associated with decreased risk. Three SNPs (rs2395672, rs6467778, and rs2691529) were present in three genes: CMTR1, TRIM24 and MAGI2. The CMTR1 mRNA transcript was significantly differentially expressed in nasal lavage samples from asthmatics during acute exacerbations, suggesting potential involvement of this gene in the development of this phenotype. We show that genetic variability may contribute to asthma exacerbations in patients taking ICS. Furthermore, our studies implicate CMTR1 as a novel candidate gene with potential roles in the pathogenesis of asthma exacerbations.
PMCID: PMC4693729  PMID: 26734457
Asthma; GWAS; inhaled corticosteroids; EMR; exacerbations; pharmacogenomics
11.  Association of defensin β-1 gene polymorphisms with asthma 
Defensins are antimicrobial peptides that may take part in airway inflammation and hyperresponsiveness.
We characterized the genetic diversity in the defensin β-1 (DEFB1) locus and tested for an association between common genetic variants and asthma diagnosis.
To identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), we resequenced this gene in 23 self-defined European Americans and 24 African Americans. To test whether DEFB1 genetic variants are associated with asthma, we genotyped 4 haplotype-tag SNPs in 517 asthmatic and 519 control samples from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and performed a case-control association analysis. To replicate these findings, we evaluated the DEFB1 polymorphisms in a second cohort from the Childhood Asthma Management Program.
Within the NHS, single SNP testing suggested an association between asthma diagnosis and a 5′ genomic SNP (g.–1816 T>C; P = .025) and intronic SNP (IVS+692 G>A; P = .054). A significant association between haplotype (Adenine, Cytosine, Thymine, Adenine [ACTA]) and asthma (P = .024) was also identified. Associations between asthma diagnosis and both DEFB1 polymorphisms were observed in Childhood Asthma Management Program, a second cohort: g.–1816 T>C and IVS+692 G>A demonstrated significant transmission distortion (P = .05 and .007, respectively). Transmission distortion was not observed in male subjects. The rare alleles (–1816C and +692A) were undertransmitted to offspring with asthma, suggesting a protective effect, contrary to the findings in the NHS cohort. Similar effects were evident at the haplotype level: ACTA was undertransmitted (P = .04) and was more prominent in female subjects (P = .007).
Variation in DEFB1 contributes to asthma diagnosis, with apparent gender-specific effects.
PMCID: PMC4475026  PMID: 15696078
Asthma; asthma genetics; defensin; association studies
12.  The genomic origins of asthma 
Thorax  2014;69(5):481-487.
Lung function tracks from the earliest age that it can be reliably measured. Genome wide association studies (GWAS) suggest that most variants identified for common complex traits are both regulatory in function and active during fetal development. Fetal programming of gene expression during development is critical to the formation of a normal lung. An understanding of how fetal developmental genes related to diseases of the lungs and airways is a critical area for research. This review article will consider the developmental origins hypothesis, the stages of normal lung development and a variety of environmental exposures that might influence the developmental process: in utero cigarette smoke exposure, vitamin D and Folate. We conclude with some information on developmental genes and asthma.
PMCID: PMC4343201  PMID: 24668408
Genomics; Asthma; Fetal Lung Development
13.  Glucocorticoid Receptor Hetero-Complex Gene STIP1 Is Associated with Improved Lung Function in Asthmatics Treated with Inhaled Corticosteroids 
Corticosteroids exert their anti-inflammatory action by binding and activating the intracellular the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) hetero-complex.
Evaluate the genes HSPCB, HSPCA, STIP1, HSPA8, DNAJB1, PTGES3, FKBP5, and FKBP4 on corticosteroid response.
Caucasian asthmatics (382) randomized to once daily flunisolide or conventional inhaled corticosteroid therapy were genotyped. Outcome measures were baseline FEV1, % predicted FEV1, and % change in FEV1 after corticosteroid treatment. Multivariable analyses adjusted for age, gender, and height, were performed fitting the most appropriate genetic model based on quantitative mean derived from ANOVA models to determine if there was an independent effect of polymorphisms on change in FEV1 independent of baseline level.
Positive recessive model correlations for STIP1 SNPs were observed for baseline FEV1 [rs4980524, p=0.009; rs6591838, p=0.0045; rs2236647, p=0.002; and rs2236648; p=0.013], baseline % predicted FEV1 [rs4980524, p=0.002; rs6591838, p=0.017; rs2236647, p=0.003; and rs2236648; p=0.008] ; % change in FEV1 at 4 weeks [rs4980524, p=0.044; rs6591838, p=0.016; rs2236647; p=0.01] and 8 weeks therapy [rs4980524, p=0.044; rs6591838, p=0.016; rs2236647; p=0.01]. Haplotypic associations were observed for baseline FEV1 and % change in FEV1 at 4 weeks therapy [p=0.05 and p=0.01, respectively]. Significant trends towards association were observed for baseline % predicted FEV1 and % change in FEV1 at 8 weeks therapy. Positive correlations between haplotypes and % change in FEV1 were also observed.
STIP1 genetic variations may play a role in regulating corticosteroid response in asthmatics with reduced lung function. Replication in a second asthma population is required to confirm these observations.
Clinical Implications
Identifying genes that regulate corticosteroid responses could allow a priori determination of individual responses to corticosteroid therapy, leading to more effective dosing and/or selection of drug therapies for treating asthma.
PMCID: PMC4317788  PMID: 19254810
corticosteroid; pharmacogenetics; glucocorticoid receptor; SNP; heat shock protein; heat shock organizing protein; immunophilin
15.  Diagnostic accuracy of the bronchodilator response in children 
The bronchodilator response (BDR) reflects the reversibility of airflow obstruction and is recommended as an adjunctive test to diagnose asthma. The validity of the commonly used definition of BDR, a 12% or greater change in FEV1 from baseline, has been questioned in childhood.
We sought to examine the diagnostic accuracy of the BDR test by using 3 large pediatric cohorts.
Cases include 1041 children with mild-to-moderate asthma from the Childhood Asthma Management Program.
Control subjects (nonasthmatic and nonwheezing) were chosen from Project Viva and Home Allergens, 2 population-based pediatric cohorts. Receiver operating characteristic curves were constructed, and areas under the curve were calculated for different BDR cutoffs.
A total of 1041 cases (59.7% male; mean age, 8.9 ± 2.1 years) and 250 control subjects (46.8% male; mean age, 8.7 ± 1.7 years) were analyzed, with mean BDRs of 10.7% ± 10.2% and 2.7% ± 8.4%, respectively. The BDR test differentiated asthmatic patients from nonasthmatic patients with a moderate accuracy (area under the curve, 73.3%).
Despite good specificity, a cutoff of 12% was associated with poor sensitivity (35.6%). A cutoff of less than 8% performed significantly better than a cutoff of 12% (P = .03, 8% vs 12%).
Our findings highlight the poor sensitivity associated with the commonly used 12% cutoff for BDR. Although our data show that a threshold of less than 8% performs better than 12%, given the variability of this test in children, we conclude that it might be not be appropriate to choose a specific BDR cutoff as a criterion for the diagnosis of asthma.
PMCID: PMC3759549  PMID: 23683464
Asthma; bronchodilator response; diagnosis
16.  A genome-wide association study of bronchodilator response in asthmatics 
The pharmacogenomics journal  2013;14(1):41-47.
Reversibility of airway obstruction in response to β2-agonists is highly variable among asthmatics, which is partially attributed to genetic factors. In a genome-wide association study of acute bronchodilator response (BDR) to inhaled albuterol, 534,290 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were tested in 403 white trios from the Childhood Asthma Management Program using five statistical models to determine the most robust genetic associations. The primary replication phase included 1397 polymorphisms in three asthma trials (pooled n=764). The second replication phase tested 13 SNPs in three additional asthma populations (n=241, n=215, and n=592). An intergenic SNP on chromosome 10, rs11252394, proximal to several excellent biological candidates, significantly replicated (p=1.98×10−7) in the primary replication trials. An intronic SNP (rs6988229) in the collagen (COL22A1) locus also provided strong replication signals (p=8.51×10−6). This study applied a robust approach for testing the genetic basis of BDR and identified novel loci associated with this drug response in asthmatics.
PMCID: PMC3706515  PMID: 23508266
pharmacogenetics; asthma; bronchodilator response; genome-wide association study; albuterol
17.  RNA-Seq Transcriptome Profiling Identifies CRISPLD2 as a Glucocorticoid Responsive Gene that Modulates Cytokine Function in Airway Smooth Muscle Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99625.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory respiratory disease that affects over 300 million people worldwide. Glucocorticoids are a mainstay therapy for asthma because they exert anti-inflammatory effects in multiple lung tissues, including the airway smooth muscle (ASM). However, the mechanism by which glucocorticoids suppress inflammation in ASM remains poorly understood. Using RNA-Seq, a high-throughput sequencing method, we characterized transcriptomic changes in four primary human ASM cell lines that were treated with dexamethasone—a potent synthetic glucocorticoid (1 µM for 18 hours). Based on a Benjamini-Hochberg corrected p-value <0.05, we identified 316 differentially expressed genes, including both well known (DUSP1, KLF15, PER1, TSC22D3) and less investigated (C7, CCDC69, CRISPLD2) glucocorticoid-responsive genes. CRISPLD2, which encodes a secreted protein previously implicated in lung development and endotoxin regulation, was found to have SNPs that were moderately associated with inhaled corticosteroid resistance and bronchodilator response among asthma patients in two previously conducted genome-wide association studies. Quantitative RT-PCR and Western blotting showed that dexamethasone treatment significantly increased CRISPLD2 mRNA and protein expression in ASM cells. CRISPLD2 expression was also induced by the inflammatory cytokine IL1β, and small interfering RNA-mediated knockdown of CRISPLD2 further increased IL1β-induced expression of IL6 and IL8. Our findings offer a comprehensive view of the effect of a glucocorticoid on the ASM transcriptome and identify CRISPLD2 as an asthma pharmacogenetics candidate gene that regulates anti-inflammatory effects of glucocorticoids in the ASM.
PMCID: PMC4057123  PMID: 24926665
18.  Genome-wide Association Identifies the T Gene as a Novel Asthma Pharmacogenetic Locus 
Rationale: To date, most studies aimed at discovering genetic factors influencing treatment response in asthma have focused on biologic candidate genes. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) can rapidly identify novel pharmacogenetic loci.
Objectives: To investigate if GWAS can identify novel pharmacogenetic loci in asthma.
Methods: Using phenotypic and GWAS genotype data available through the NHLBI-funded Single-nucleotide polymorphism Health association-Asthma Resource Project, we analyzed differences in FEV1 in response to inhaled corticosteroids in 418 white subjects with asthma. Of the 444,088 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) analyzed, the lowest 50 SNPs by P value were genotyped in an independent clinical trial population of 407 subjects with asthma.
Measurements and Main Results: The lowest P value for the GWAS analysis was 2.09 × 10−6. Of the 47 SNPs successfully genotyped in the replication population, three were associated under the same genetic model in the same direction, including two of the top four SNPs ranked by P value. Combined P values for these SNPs were 1.06 × 10−5 for rs3127412 and 6.13 × 10−6 for rs6456042. Although these two were not located within a gene, they were tightly correlated with three variants mapping to potentially functional regions within the T gene. After genotyping, each T gene variant was also associated with lung function response to inhaled corticosteroids in each of the trials associated with rs3127412 and rs6456042 in the initial GWAS analysis. On average, there was a twofold to threefold difference in FEV1 response for those subjects homozygous for the wild-type versus mutant alleles for each T gene SNP.
Conclusions: Genome-wide association has identified the T gene as a novel pharmacogenetic locus for inhaled corticosteroid response in asthma.
PMCID: PMC3381232  PMID: 22538805
polymorphism; genome; pharmacogenomics; glucocorticoid
19.  Genomewide Association between GLCCI1 and Response to Glucocorticoid Therapy in Asthma 
The New England journal of medicine  2011;365(13):1173-1183.
The response to treatment for asthma is characterized by wide interindividual variability, with a significant number of patients who have no response. We hypothesized that a genomewide association study would reveal novel pharmacogenetic determinants of the response to inhaled glucocorticoids.
We analyzed a small number of statistically powerful variants selected on the basis of a family-based screening algorithm from among 534,290 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to determine changes in lung function in response to inhaled glucocorticoids. A significant, replicated association was found, and we characterized its functional effects.
We identified a significant pharmacogenetic association at SNP rs37972, replicated in four independent populations totaling 935 persons (P = 0.0007), which maps to the glucocorticoid-induced transcript 1 gene (GLCCI1) and is in complete linkage disequilibrium (i.e., perfectly correlated) with rs37973. Both rs37972 and rs37973 are associated with decrements in GLCCI1 expression. In isolated cell systems, the rs37973 variant is associated with significantly decreased luciferase reporter activity. Pooled data from treatment trials indicate reduced lung function in response to inhaled glucocorticoids in subjects with the variant allele (P = 0.0007 for pooled data). Overall, the mean (± SE) increase in forced expiratory volume in 1 second in the treated subjects who were homozygous for the mutant rs37973 allele was only about one third of that seen in similarly treated subjects who were homozygous for the wild-type allele (3.2 ± 1.6% vs. 9.4 ± 1.1%), and their risk of a poor response was significantly higher (odds ratio, 2.36; 95% confidence interval, 1.27 to 4.41), with genotype accounting for about 6.6% of overall inhaled glucocorticoid response variability.
A functional GLCCI1 variant is associated with substantial decrements in the response to inhaled glucocorticoids in patients with asthma. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others; number, NCT00000575.)
PMCID: PMC3667396  PMID: 21991891
20.  Integration of Mouse and Human Genome-Wide Association Data Identifies KCNIP4 as an Asthma Gene 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56179.
Asthma is a common chronic respiratory disease characterized by airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). The genetics of asthma have been widely studied in mouse and human, and homologous genomic regions have been associated with mouse AHR and human asthma-related phenotypes. Our goal was to identify asthma-related genes by integrating AHR associations in mouse with human genome-wide association study (GWAS) data. We used Efficient Mixed Model Association (EMMA) analysis to conduct a GWAS of baseline AHR measures from males and females of 31 mouse strains. Genes near or containing SNPs with EMMA p-values <0.001 were selected for further study in human GWAS. The results of the previously reported EVE consortium asthma GWAS meta-analysis consisting of 12,958 diverse North American subjects from 9 study centers were used to select a subset of homologous genes with evidence of association with asthma in humans. Following validation attempts in three human asthma GWAS (i.e., Sepracor/LOCCS/LODO/Illumina, GABRIEL, DAG) and two human AHR GWAS (i.e., SHARP, DAG), the Kv channel interacting protein 4 (KCNIP4) gene was identified as nominally associated with both asthma and AHR at a gene- and SNP-level. In EVE, the smallest KCNIP4 association was at rs6833065 (P-value 2.9e-04), while the strongest associations for Sepracor/LOCCS/LODO/Illumina, GABRIEL, DAG were 1.5e-03, 1.0e-03, 3.1e-03 at rs7664617, rs4697177, rs4696975, respectively. At a SNP level, the strongest association across all asthma GWAS was at rs4697177 (P-value 1.1e-04). The smallest P-values for association with AHR were 2.3e-03 at rs11947661 in SHARP and 2.1e-03 at rs402802 in DAG. Functional studies are required to validate the potential involvement of KCNIP4 in modulating asthma susceptibility and/or AHR. Our results suggest that a useful approach to identify genes associated with human asthma is to leverage mouse AHR association data.
PMCID: PMC3572953  PMID: 23457522
21.  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
22.  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
23.  Thymic Stromal Lymphopoietin Gene Promoter Polymorphisms Are Associated with Susceptibility to Bronchial Asthma 
Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) triggers dendritic cell–mediated T helper (Th) 2 inflammatory responses. A single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs3806933, in the promoter region of the TSLP gene creates a binding site for the transcription factor activating protein (AP)–1. The variant enhances AP-1 binding to the regulatory element, and increases the promoter–reporter activity of TSLP in response to polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (poly[I:C]) stimulation in normal human bronchial epithelium (NHBE). We investigated whether polymorphisms including the SNP rs3806933 could affect the susceptibility to and clinical phenotypes of bronchial asthma. We selected three representative (i.e., Tag) SNPs and conducted association studies of the TSLP gene, using two independent populations (639 patients with childhood atopic asthma and 838 control subjects, and 641 patients with adult asthma and 376 control subjects, respectively). We further examined the effects of corticosteroids and a long-acting β2-agonist (salmeterol) on the expression levels of the TSLP gene in response to poly(I:C) in NHBE. We found that the promoter polymorphisms rs3806933 and rs2289276 were significantly associated with disease susceptibility in both childhood atopic and adult asthma. The functional SNP rs3806933 was associated with asthma (meta-analysis, P = 0.000056; odds ratio, 1.29; 95% confidence interval, 1.14–1.47). A genotype of rs2289278 was correlated with pulmonary function. Moreover, the induction of TSLP mRNA and protein expression induced by poly(I:C) in NHBE was synergistically impaired by a corticosteroid and salmeterol. TSLP variants are significantly associated with bronchial asthma and pulmonary function. Thus, TSLP may serve as a therapeutic target molecule for combination therapy.
PMCID: PMC3159073  PMID: 20656951
asthma; TSLP; bronchial epithelial cells; combination therapy; genetic polymorphisms
24.  Chromosome 17: Association of a large inversion polymorphism with corticosteroid response in asthma 
Pharmacogenetics and genomics  2008;18(8):733-737.
A 900-KB inversion exists within a large region of conserved linkage disequilibrium (LD) on chromosome 17. CRHR1 is located within the inversion region and associated with inhaled corticosteroid response in asthma. We hypothesized that CRHR1 variants are in LD with the inversion, supporting a potential role for natural selection in the genetic response to corticosteroids. We genotyped 6 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) spanning chr17:40,410,565–42,372,240, including 4 SNPs defining inversion status. Similar allele frequencies and strong LD were noted between the inversion and a CRHR1 SNP previously associated with lung function response to inhaled corticosteroids. Each inversion-defining SNP was strongly associated with inhaled corticosteroid response in adult asthma (p-values 0.002–0.005). The CRHR1 response to inhaled corticosteroids may thus be explained by natural selection resulting from inversion status or by long-range LD with another gene. Additional pharmacogenetic investigations into to regions of chromosomal diversity, including copy number variation and inversions, are warranted.
PMCID: PMC3225071  PMID: 18622266
CRHR1; tau haplotype; MAPT; inversion; asthma; corticosteroid; pharmacogenetics
25.  Association of corticotropin releasing hormone receptor 2 (CRHR2) genetic variants with acute bronchodilator response in asthma 
Pharmacogenetics and genomics  2008;18(5):373-382.
Corticotropin - releasing hormone receptor 2 (CRHR2) participates in smooth muscle relaxation response and may influence acute airway bronchodilator response to short – acting β2 agonist treatment of asthma. We aim to assess associations between genetic variants of CRHR2 and acute bronchodilator response in asthma.
We investigated 28 single nucleotide polymorphisms in CRHR2 for associations with acute bronchodilator response to albuterol in 607 Caucasian asthmatic subjects recruited as part of the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP). Replication was conducted in two Caucasian adult asthma cohorts – a cohort of 427 subjects enrolled in a completed clinical trial conducted by Sepracor Inc. (MA, USA) and a cohort of 152 subjects enrolled in the Clinical Trial of Low-Dose Theopylline and Montelukast (LODO) conducted by the American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Centers.
Five variants were significantly associated with acute bronchodilator response in at least one cohort (p-value ≤ 0.05). Variant rs7793837 was associated in CAMP and LODO (p-value = 0.05 and 0.03, respectively) and haplotype blocks residing at the 5’ end of CRHR2 were associated with response in all three cohorts.
We report for the first time, at the gene level, replicated associations between CRHR2 and acute bronchodilator response. While no single variant was significantly associated in all three cohorts, the findings that variants at the 5’ end of CRHR2 are associated in each of three cohorts strongly suggest that the causative variants reside in this region and its genetic effect, although present, is likely to be weak.
PMCID: PMC3208318  PMID: 18408560
Asthma; genetics; corticotrophin releasing hormone receptor 2; CRHR2; bronchodilator response; polymorphism; β2 adrenergic receptor agonist

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