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.
asthma; TSLP; bronchial epithelial cells; combination therapy; genetic polymorphisms
For genomewide association studies with family-based designs, we propose a Bayesian approach. We show that standard TDT/FBAT statistics can naturally be implemented in a Bayesian framework. We construct a Bayes factor conditional on the offspring phenotype and parental genotype data and then use the data we conditioned on to inform the prior odds for each marker. In the construction of the prior odds, the evidence for association for each single marker is obtained at the population-level by estimating the genetic effect size in the conditional mean model. Since such genetic effect size estimates are statistically independent of the effect size estimation within the families, the actual data set can inform the construction of the prior odds without any statistical penalty. In contrast to Bayesian approaches that have recently been proposed for genomewide association studies, our approach does not require assumptions about the genetic effect size; this makes the proposed method entirely data-driven. The power of the approach was assessed through simulation. We then applied the approach to a genomewide association scan to search for associations between single nucleotide polymorphisms and body mass index in the Childhood Asthma Management Program data.
family-based association tests; Bayes factors; complex traits
Asthma is the leading serious pediatric chronic illness in the United States, affecting 7.1 million children. The prevalence of asthma in children under 4 years of age has increased dramatically in the last 2 decades. Existing evidence suggests that this increase in prevalence derives from early environmental exposures acting on a pre-existing asthma-susceptible genotype. We studied the origins of asthma susceptibility in developing lung in rat strains that model the distinct phenotypes of airway hyperresponsiveness (Fisher rats) and atopy (brown Norway [BN] rats). Postnatal BN rat lungs showed increased epithelial proliferation and tracheal goblet cell hyperplasia. Fisher pups showed increased lung resistance at age 2 weeks, with elevated neutrophils throughout the postnatal period. Diverse transcriptomic signatures characterized the distinct respiratory phenotypes of developing lung in both rat models. Linear regression across age and strain identified developmental variation in expression of 1,376 genes, and confirmed both strain and temporal regulation of lung gene expression. Biological processes that were heavily represented included growth and development (including the T Box 1 transcription factor [Tbx5], the epidermal growth factor receptor [Egfr], the transforming growth factor beta-1-induced transcript 1 [Tgfbr1i1]), extracellular matrix and cell adhesion (including collagen and integrin genes), and immune function (including lymphocyte antigen 6 (Ly6) subunits, IL-17b, Toll-interacting protein, and Ficolin B). Genes validated by quantitative RT-PCR and protein analysis included collagen III alpha 1 Col3a1, Ly6b, glucocorticoid receptor and Importin-13 (specific to the BN rat lung), and Serpina1 and Ficolin B (specific to the Fisher lung). Innate differences in patterns of gene expression in developing lung that contribute to individual variation in respiratory phenotype are likely to contribute to the pathogenesis of asthma.
asthma susceptibility; lung development; developmental gene expression
Few studies have examined the effects of in utero smoke exposure (IUS) on lung function in children with asthma, and there are no published data on the impact of IUS on treatment outcomes in asthmatic children.
To explore whether IUS exposure is associated with increased airway responsiveness among children with asthma, and whether IUS modifies the response to treatment with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS).
To assess the impact of parent-reported IUS exposure on airway responsiveness in childhood asthma we performed a repeated-measures analysis of methacholine PC20 data from the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP), a four-year, multicenter, randomized double masked placebo controlled trial of 1041 children ages 5–12 comparing the long term efficacy of ICS with mast cell stabilizing agents or placebo.
Although improvement was seen in both groups, asthmatic children with IUS exposure had on average 26% less of an improvement in airway responsiveness over time compared to unexposed children (p=.01). Moreover, while children who were not exposed to IUS who received budesonide experienced substantial improvement in PC20 compared to untreated children (1.25 fold-increase, 95% CI 1.03, 1.50, p=.02) the beneficial effects of budesonide were attenuated among children with a history of IUS exposure (1.04 fold-increase, 95% CI 0.65, 1.68, p=.88).
IUS reduces age-related improvements in airway responsiveness among asthmatic children. Moreover, IUS appears to blunt the beneficial effects of ICS use on airways responsiveness. These results emphasize the importance of preventing this exposure through smoking cessation counseling efforts with pregnant women.
asthma; in utero smoke exposure; airway responsiveness; inhaled corticosteroids
Asthma exacerbations, most often due to respiratory tract infections, are the leading causes of asthma morbidity and comprise a significant proportion of asthma-related costs. Vitamin D status may play a role in preventing asthma exacerbations.
To assess the relationship between serum vitamin D levels and subsequent severe asthma exacerbations.
We measured 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels in serum collected from 1,024 mild to moderate persistent asthmatic children at the time of enrollment in a multi-center clinical trial of children randomized to receiving budesonide, nedocromil, or placebo (as-needed beta-agonists), the Childhood Asthma Management Program. Using multivariable modeling we examined the relationship between baseline vitamin D level and the odds of any hospitalization or emergency department (ED) visit over the 4 years of the trial.
35% of all subjects were vitamin D insufficient, as defined by a level ≤ 30 ng/ml 25(OH)D. Mean vitamin D levels were lowest in African-American subjects, and highest in whites. After adjusting for age, sex, BMI, income, and treatment group, insufficient vitamin D status was associated with a higher odds of any hospitalization or ED visit (odds ratio [OR] 1.5 [95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.1 – 1.9] P =0.01).
Vitamin D insufficiency is common in this population of North American children with mild to moderate persistent asthma, and is associated with higher odds of severe exacerbation over a four year period.
Asthma; Vitamin D; inhaled corticosteroids; asthma exacerbations
We propose an omnibus family-based association test (MFBAT) that can be applied to multiple markers and multiple phenotypes and that has only one degree of freedom. The proposed test statistic extends current FBAT methodology to incorporate multiple markers as well as multiple phenotypes. Using simulation studies, power estimates for the proposed methodology are compared with the standard methodologies. On the basis of these simulations, we find that MFBAT substantially outperforms other methods, including haplotypic approaches and doing multiple tests with single single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and single phenotypes. The practical relevance of the approach is illustrated by an application to asthma in which SNP/phenotype combinations are identified and reach overall significance that would not have been identified using other approaches. This methodology is directly applicable to cases in which there are multiple SNPs, such as candidate gene studies, cases in which there are multiple phenotypes, such as expression data, and cases in which there are multiple phenotypes and genotypes, such as genome-wide association studies that incorporate expression profiles as phenotypes. This program is available in the PBAT analysis package.
family-based association testing (FBAT); genome-wide association studies; FBAT-PC; multiple marker; multiple phenotypes; multiple testing
Alveolarization depends on circulating glucocorticoid (GC), retinoid (RA) and Vitamin D (VitD). Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), a leading cause of neonatal morbidity, is associated with arrested alveolarization. In hyperoxia-exposed rats displaying features of BPD, reduced levels of Lgl1 normalize during recovery. We show that GC (100nM) stimulates (7–115 fold) and VitD (100µM) suppresses (2 fold) Lgl1 expression. RA (all trans/9-cis, 10µM) effects are biphasic. From postnatal (PN) days 7–10, RA was stimulatory (2 fold) at 24h, after which effects were inhibitory (3–15 fold). Lgl1 promoter-luciferase reporter assays confirmed that these agents operated at the transcriptional level. Interestingly, the individual inhibitory effects of VitD and RA on GC induction of Lgl1 were abrogated when both agents were present, suggesting that steric hindrance may influence promoter accessibility. Analysis of the proximity (<50 base pairs) of binding sites for overlapping VitD and RA receptors to that of the GC receptor identified 81% of promoters in 66 genes (including Lgl1) important in human lung development compared to 48% in a random set of 1000 genes. Complex integration of the effects of GC, RA, and VitD on gene expression in the postnatal lung is likely to contribute to the timely advance of alveolarization without attendant inflammation.
Daily controller medication use is recommended for children with persistent asthma to achieve asthma control.
To examine patterns of inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) use and asthma control in an observational study of children and adolescents with mild-to-moderate asthma (the Childhood Asthma Management Program Continuation Study).
We assessed patterns of ICS use during a 12-month period (consistent, intermittent, and none) and asthma control (well controlled vs poorly controlled). Multivariate logistic regression examined the association between pattern of ICS use and asthma control.
Of 914 patients enrolled, 425 were recommended to continue receiving ICS therapy in the Childhood Asthma Management Program Continuation Study. Of these patients, 46% reported consistent ICS use and 20% reported no ICS use during year 1. By year 4, consistent ICS use decreased to 20%, whereas no ICS use increased to 57%; poorly controlled asthma was reported in 18% of encounters. In multivariate models controlling for age, sex, forced expiratory volume in 1 second, and asthma severity assessment, patients reporting consistent ICS use during a 12-month period were more likely to report poor asthma control (odds ratio, 1.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.2–2.1) compared with those reporting no ICS use.
In this observational study of children and adolescents with mild-to-moderate asthma, most did not report continued use of ICS. Patients recommended to continue receiving ICS therapy and reporting consistent ICS use were less likely to report well-controlled asthma even after controlling for markers of asthma severity. Although residual confounding by severity cannot be ruled out, many children and adolescents may not achieve well-controlled asthma despite consistent use of ICS.
The course of mild to moderate persistent asthma in children is not clearly established.
To determine the rate and predictors for remitting, periodic, and persistent asthma in adolescence.
The Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) was a 4.3-year randomized, double-masked, multicenter trial in children with mild to moderate persistent asthma that compared continuous therapy with either budesonide or nedocromil, each to placebo, followed by 4 years observational follow-up period. Asthma activity during the observation period included remitting (no asthma activity in the last year), persistent (asthma activity in every quarter), and periodic asthma (neither remitting nor persistent).
Asthma was identified as remitting in 6%, periodic in 39%, and persistent in 55% of the 909 participants, with no effect noted from earlier anti-inflammatory treatment during the CAMP trial. Within all three asthma activity categories, improvements in airway hyperresponsiveness, eosinophilia, and asthma morbidity were observed over time. Features at entry into CAMP associated with remitting vs. persistent asthma were lack of allergen sensitization and exposure to indoor allergens [OR=3.23, p<0.001], milder asthma [OR=2.01, p=0.03], older age [OR=1.23, p=0.01], less airway hyperresponsiveness (higher log methacholine FEV1 PC20 [OR=1.39, p=0.03]), higher pre-bronchodilator FEV1 % predicted [OR=1.05, p=0.02], and lower FVC % predicted [OR=0.96, p=0.04].
Remission of asthma in adolescence is infrequent and not impacted by 4 years of anti-inflammatory controller therapy. Factors such as sensitization and exposure, low lung function, and airway greater hyperresponsiveness decrease the likelihood of remitting asthma.
Remission; Natural history; Persistent asthma
Genetic tests for the most commonly mutated genes in dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) can confirm a clinical diagnosis in the proband and inform family management. Presymptomatic family members can be identified, allowing for targeted clinical monitoring to minimize adverse outcomes. However, the marked locus and allelic heterogeneity associated with DCM have made clinical genetic testing challenging. Novel sequencing platforms have now opened up avenues for more comprehensive diagnostic testing while simultaneously decreasing test cost and turn around time.
By using a custom design based on triplicate resequencing and separate genotyping of known disease-causing variants, we developed the DCM CardioChip for efficient analysis of 19 genes previously implicated in causing DCM.
The chip’s analytical sensitivity for known and novel substitution variants is 100% and 98%, respectively. In screening 73 previously tested DCM patients who did not carry clinically significant variants in 10 genes, 7 variants of likely clinical significance were identified in the remaining 9 genes included on the chip. Compared with traditional Sanger-based sequencing, test cost and turn around time were reduced by ~50%.
The DCM CardioChip is a highly efficient screening test with a projected clinical sensitivity of 26–29%.
dilated cardiomyopathy; resequencing array; genetic test; locus heterogeneity
We propose an omnibus family-based association test (MFBAT), that can be applied to multiple markers and multiple phenotypes and that has only 1 degree of freedom. The proposed test statistic extends current FBAT methodology to incorporate multiple markers as well as multiple phenotypes. Using simulation studies, power estimates for the proposed methodology are compared with the standard methodologies. Based on these simulations, we find that MFBAT substantially outperforms other methods including some haplotypic approaches and doing multiple tests with single SNPs and single phenotypes. The practical relevance of the approach is illustrated by an application to asthma where SNPs/phenotype combinations are identified and reach overall significance that would not have been identified using other approaches. This methodology is directly applicable to cases where there are multiple SNPs, such as candidate gene studies, cases where there are multiple phenotypes, such as expression data, and cases where there are multiple phenotypes and genotypes, such as genome-wide association studies that incorporate expression profiles as phenotypes. This program is available in the PBAT analysis package1.
Family-based association testing (FBAT); genome-wide association studies; FBAT-PC; multiple marker; multiple phenotypes; multiple testing
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).
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.
asthma; genetic association; sex-specific; thymic stromal lymphopoietin; TSLP
Serum proteins are routinely used to diagnose diseases, but are hard to find due to low sensitivity in screening the serum proteome. Public repositories of microarray data, such as the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO), contain RNA expression profiles for more than 16,000 biological conditions, covering more than 30% of United States mortality. We hypothesized that genes coding for serum- and urine-detectable proteins, and showing differential expression of RNA in disease-damaged tissues would make ideal diagnostic protein biomarkers for those diseases. We showed that predicted protein biomarkers are significantly enriched for known diagnostic protein biomarkers in 22 diseases, with enrichment significantly higher in diseases for which at least three datasets are available. We then used this strategy to search for new biomarkers indicating acute rejection (AR) across different types of transplanted solid organs. We integrated three biopsy-based microarray studies of AR from pediatric renal, adult renal and adult cardiac transplantation and identified 45 genes upregulated in all three. From this set, we chose 10 proteins for serum ELISA assays in 39 renal transplant patients, and discovered three that were significantly higher in AR. Interestingly, all three proteins were also significantly higher during AR in the 63 cardiac transplant recipients studied. Our best marker, serum PECAM1, identified renal AR with 89% sensitivity and 75% specificity, and also showed increased expression in AR by immunohistochemistry in renal, hepatic and cardiac transplant biopsies. Our results demonstrate that integrating gene expression microarray measurements from disease samples and even publicly-available data sets can be a powerful, fast, and cost-effective strategy for the discovery of new diagnostic serum protein biomarkers.
Protein biomarkers in the blood are urgently needed for the diagnosis of a wide variety of diseases to improve health care. We aim to find a fast and cost-effective strategy to discover diagnostic protein biomarkers. Hundreds of diseases have already been investigated using microarray technology, measuring the mRNA expression of all genes in the disease-damaged tissues. We analyzed biopsy-based microarray data for 41 diseases in the public repository, identified genes with dysregulated mRNA expressions and detectable-protein abundance in the blood, and predicted them as candidate diagnostic protein biomarkers. We found that clinically and preclinically validated diagnostic protein biomarkers were significantly enriched in our predicted protein candidates for 22 diseases. We then measured the concentrations of ten predicted protein biomarkers in the serum samples from 39 renal transplant patients. Three of them were confirmed to be diagnostic of acute rejection after renal transplantation. All three proteins were further confirmed to be diagnostic of acute rejection in 63 cardiac transplant recipients. Our results show that publically available genome-wide gene expression data on disease-damaged tissues can be effectively translated into diagnostic protein biomarkers.
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease whose genetic basis has been explored for over two decades, most recently via genome-wide association studies. We sought to find asthma-susceptibility variants by using probands from a single population in both family-based and case-control association designs.
We used probands from the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) in two primary genome-wide association study designs: (1) probands were combined with publicly available population controls in a case-control design, and (2) probands and their parents were used in a family-based design. We followed a two-stage replication process utilizing three independent populations to validate our primary findings.
We found that single nucleotide polymorphisms with similar case-control and family-based association results were more likely to replicate in the independent populations, than those with the smallest p-values in either the case-control or family-based design alone. The single nucleotide polymorphism that showed the strongest evidence for association to asthma was rs17572584, which replicated in 2/3 independent populations with an overall p-value among replication populations of 3.5E-05. This variant is near a gene that encodes an enzyme that has been implicated to act coordinately with modulators of Th2 cell differentiation and is expressed in human lung.
Our results suggest that using probands from family-based studies in case-control designs, and combining results of both family-based and case-control approaches, may be a way to augment our ability to find SNPs associated with asthma and other complex diseases.
The β2-adrenergic receptor (β2AR) is expressed on numerous cell-types including airway smooth muscle cells and cardiomyocytes. Drugs (agonists or antagonists) acting at these receptors for treatment of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart failure show substantial interindividual variability in response. The ADRB2 gene is polymorphic in noncoding and coding regions, but virtually all ADRB2 association studies have utilized the two common nonsynonymous coding SNPs, often reaching discrepant conclusions.
We constructed the 8 common ADRB2 haplotypes derived from 26 polymorphisms in the promoter, 5′UTR, coding, and 3′UTR of the intronless ADRB2 gene. These were cloned into an expression construct lacking a vector-based promoter, so that β2AR expression was driven by its promoter, and steady state expression could be modified by polymorphisms throughout ADRB2 within a haplotype. “Whole-gene” transfections were performed with COS-7 cells and revealed 4 haplotypes with increased cell surface β2AR protein expression compared to the others. Agonist-promoted downregulation of β2AR protein expression was also haplotype-dependent, and was found to be increased for 2 haplotypes. A phylogenetic tree of the haplotypes was derived and annotated by cellular phenotypes, revealing a pattern potentially driven by expression.
Thus for obstructive lung disease, the initial bronchodilator response from intermittent administration of β-agonist may be influenced by certain β2AR haplotypes (expression phenotypes), while other haplotypes may influence tachyphylaxis during the response to chronic therapy (downregulation phenotypes). An ideal clinical outcome of high expression and less downregulation was found for two haplotypes. Haplotypes may also affect heart failure antagonist therapy, where β2AR increase inotropy and are anti-apoptotic. The haplotype-specific expression and regulation phenotypes found in this transfection-based system suggest that the density of genetic information in the form of these haplotypes, or haplotype-clusters with similar phenotypes can potentially provide greater discrimination of phenotype in human disease and pharmacogenomic association studies.
Discovering genetic associations between genetic markers and gene expression levels can provide insight into gene regulation and, potentially, mechanisms of disease. Such analyses typically involve a linkage or association analysis in which expression data are used as phenotypes. This approach leads to a large number of multiple comparisons and may therefore lack power. We assess the potential of applying canonical correlation analysis to partitioned genomewide data as a method for discovering regulatory variants.
Simulations suggest that canonical correlation analysis has higher power than standard pairwise univariate regression to detect single nucleotide polymorphisms when the expression trait has low heritability. The increase in power is even greater under the recessive model. We demonstrate this approach using the Childhood Asthma Management Program data.
Our approach reduces multiple comparisons and may provide insight into the complex relationships between genotype and gene expression.