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1.  Vitamin D Deficiency, Smoking, and Lung Function in the Normative Aging Study 
Rationale: Vitamin D has immunomodulatory and antiinflammatory effects that may be modified by cigarette smoke and may affect lung function.
Objectives: To examine the effect of vitamin D deficiency and smoking on lung function and lung function decline.
Methods: A total of 626 men from the Normative Aging Study had 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels measured at three different times between 1984 and 2003 with concurrent spirometry. Vitamin D deficiency was defined as serum level ≤ 20 ng/ml. Statistical analysis was performed using multivariable linear regression and mixed effects models.
Measurements and Main Results: In the overall cohort, there was no significant effect of vitamin D deficiency on lung function or on lung function decline. In both cross-sectional and longitudinal multivariable models, there was effect modification by vitamin D status on the association between smoking and lung function. Cross-sectional analysis revealed lower lung function in current smokers with vitamin D deficiency (FEV1, FVC, and FEV1/FVC; P ≤ 0.0002), and longitudinal analysis showed more rapid rates of decline in FEV1 (P = 0.023) per pack-year of smoking in subjects with vitamin D deficiency as compared with subjects who were vitamin D sufficient.
Conclusions: Vitamin D deficiency was associated with lower lung function and more rapid lung function decline in smokers over 20 years in this longitudinal cohort of elderly men. This suggests that vitamin D sufficiency may have a protective effect against the damaging effects of smoking on lung function. Future studies should seek to confirm this finding in the context of smoking and other exposures that affect lung function.
PMCID: PMC3480523  PMID: 22822023
vitamin D; vitamin D deficiency; lung function decline; smoking; effect modification
2.  SOX5 Is a Candidate Gene for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Susceptibility and Is Necessary for Lung Development 
Rationale: Chromosome 12p has been linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study (BEOCOPD), but a susceptibility gene in that region has not been identified.
Objectives: We used high-density single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) mapping to implicate a COPD susceptibility gene and an animal model to determine the potential role of SOX5 in lung development and COPD.
Methods: On chromosome 12p, we genotyped 1,387 SNPs in 386 COPD cases from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial and 424 control smokers from the Normative Aging Study. SNPs with significant associations were then tested in the BEOCOPD study and the International COPD Genetics Network. Based on the human results, we assessed histology and gene expression in the lungs of Sox5−/− mice.
Measurements and Main Results: In the case-control analysis, 27 SNPs were significant at P ≤ 0.01. The most significant SNP in the BEOCOPD replication was rs11046966 (National Emphysema Treatment Trial–Normative Aging Study P = 6.0 × 10−4, BEOCOPD P = 1.5 × 10−5, combined P = 1.7 × 10−7), located 3′ to the gene SOX5. Association with rs11046966 was not replicated in the International COPD Genetics Network. Sox5−/− mice showed abnormal lung development, with a delay in maturation before the saccular stage, as early as E16.5. Lung pathology in Sox5−/− lungs was associated with a decrease in fibronectin expression, an extracellular matrix component critical for branching morphogenesis.
Conclusions: Genetic variation in the transcription factor SOX5 is associated with COPD susceptibility. A mouse model suggests that the effect may be due, in part, to its effects on lung development and/or repair processes.
PMCID: PMC3137139  PMID: 21330457
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; emphysema; knockout mice; lung development; single nucleotide polymorphism
3.  Multistudy Fine Mapping of Chromosome 2q Identifies XRCC5 as a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Susceptibility Gene 
Rationale: Several family-based studies have identified genetic linkage for lung function and airflow obstruction to chromosome 2q.
Objectives: We hypothesized that merging results of high-resolution single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) mapping in four separate populations would lead to the identification of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) susceptibility genes on chromosome 2q.
Methods: Within the chromosome 2q linkage region, 2,843 SNPs were genotyped in 806 COPD cases and 779 control subjects from Norway, and 2,484 SNPs were genotyped in 309 patients with severe COPD from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial and 330 community control subjects. Significant associations from the combined results across the two case-control studies were followed up in 1,839 individuals from 603 families from the International COPD Genetics Network (ICGN) and in 949 individuals from 127 families in the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study.
Measurements and Main Results: Merging the results of the two case-control analyses, 14 of the 790 overlapping SNPs had a combined P < 0.01. Two of these 14 SNPs were consistently associated with COPD in the ICGN families. The association with one SNP, located in the gene XRCC5, was replicated in the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study, with a combined P = 2.51 × 10−5 across the four studies, which remains significant when adjusted for multiple testing (P = 0.02). Genotype imputation confirmed the association with SNPs in XRCC5.
Conclusions: By combining data from COPD genetic association studies conducted in four independent patient samples, we have identified XRCC5, an ATP-dependent DNA helicase, as a potential COPD susceptibility gene.
PMCID: PMC2937234  PMID: 20463177
emphysema; genetic linkage; metaanalysis; single nucleotide polymorphism
4.  Rapid DNA Methylation Changes after Exposure to Traffic Particles 
Rationale: Exposure to particulate air pollution has been related to increased hospitalization and death, particularly from cardiovascular disease. Lower blood DNA methylation content is found in processes related to cardiovascular outcomes, such as oxidative stress, aging, and atherosclerosis.
Objectives: We evaluated whether particulate pollution modifies DNA methylation in heavily methylated sequences with high representation throughout the human genome.
Methods: We measured DNA methylation of long interspersed nucleotide element (LINE)-1 and Alu repetitive elements by quantitative polymerase chain reaction–pyrosequencing of 1,097 blood samples from 718 elderly participants in the Boston area Normative Aging Study. We used covariate-adjusted mixed models to account for within-subject correlation in repeated measures. We estimated the effects on DNA methylation of ambient particulate pollutants (black carbon, particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 μm [PM2.5], or sulfate) in multiple time windows (4 h to 7 d) before the examination. We estimated standardized regression coefficients (β) expressing the fraction of a standard deviation change in DNA methylation associated with a standard deviation increase in exposure.
Measurements and Main Results: Repetitive element DNA methylation varied in association with time-related variables, such as day of the week and season. LINE-1 methylation decreased after recent exposure to higher black carbon (β = −0.11; 95% confidence interval [CI], −0.18 to −0.04; P = 0.002) and PM2.5 (β = −0.13; 95% CI, −0.19 to −0.06; P < 0.001 for the 7-d moving average). In two-pollutant models, only black carbon, a tracer of traffic particles, was significantly associated with LINE-1 methylation (β = −0.09; 95% CI, −0.17 to −0.01; P = 0.03). No association was found with Alu methylation (P > 0.12).
Conclusions: We found decreased repeated-element methylation after exposure to traffic particles. Whether decreased methylation mediates exposure-related health effects remains to be determined.
PMCID: PMC2720123  PMID: 19136372
epigenetic processes; air pollution; inhalation exposure; interspersed repetitive sequences
5.  Traffic-related Particles Are Associated with Elevated Homocysteine 
Rationale: Recent epidemiologic studies have shown that homocysteine, a sulfur-containing amino acid formed during the metabolism of methionine, is a risk factor for atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, and thrombosis. Particulate air pollution has been related to cardiovascular death and hospital admission, but the underlying mechanisms are not fully elucidated.
Objectives: We examined the associations between ambient particulate air pollution and plasma concentrations of homocysteine among 960 community-residing older men (mean age, 73.6 ± 6.9 yr).
Methods: Total homocysteine in plasma, measured using high-performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence detection, was regressed on each ambient particulate pollutant (black carbon, organic carbon, sulfate or PM2.5), and effect modification by plasma and dietary B vitamins (folate, B6, and B12) was examined.
Measurements and Main Results: The median concentration of total homocysteine was 10.6 μmol/L. Statistically significant positive associations of total homocysteine were observed with traffic-related particles (black carbon and organic carbon). No association was observed with sulfate, an indicator of coal combustion particles, or PM2.5 (particulate matter ≤ 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter). The effects of black carbon and organic carbon were more pronounced in persons with low concentrations of plasma folate and vitamin B12.
Conclusions: Exposures to ambient particles, particularly from traffic, are associated with elevated plasma total homocysteine. Homocysteine may be a component or biological marker of the oxidation pathways underlying the effect of ambient particles on the cardiovascular system.
PMCID: PMC2542426  PMID: 18467508
air pollution; folate; homocysteine; traffic particles; vitamin B12
6.  Statin Use Reduces Decline in Lung Function 
Rationale: Decreased lung function has been linked to increased inflammation and oxidative stress. Statins have demonstrated antiinflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Objectives: We investigated the effect of statin use on decline in lung function in the elderly, and whether smoking modified this effect.
Methods: Our study population included 2,136 measurements on 803 elderly men from the Normative Aging Study whose lung function (FVC and FEV1) was measured two to four times between 1995 and 2005. Subjects indicated statin use and smoking history at each visit. We used mixed linear models to estimate the effects of each covariate, adjusting for subject and possible confounders.
Measurements and Main Results: For those not using statins, the estimated decline in FEV1 was 23.9 ml/year (95% confidence interval [CI], −27.8 to −20.1 ml/yr), whereas those taking statins had an estimated 10.9-ml/year decline in FEV1 (95% CI, −16.9 to −5.0 ml/yr). We also examined the effect of statins with smoking by dividing the cohort into four groups: never-smokers, longtime quitters (quit ≥ 10 yr ago), recent quitters (quit < 10 yr ago), and current smokers. We found a significant three-way interaction between time since first visit, statin use, and smoking status (P < 0.001). Within each smoking category, the effect of statins was always estimated to be beneficial, but the size of the improvement in the decline rate varied among smoking groups. We found similar results for FVC decline.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that statin use attenuates decline in lung function in the elderly, with the size of the beneficial effect modified by smoking status.
PMCID: PMC2020828  PMID: 17673694
statins; lung function; FVC; FEV1; smoking
7.  Genetic Determinants of Emphysema Distribution in the National Emphysema Treatment Trial 
Rationale: Computed tomography (CT) scanning of the lung may reduce phenotypic heterogeneity in defining subjects with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and allow identification of genetic determinants of emphysema severity and distribution.
Objectives: We sought to identify genes associated with CT scan distribution of emphysema in individuals without α1-antitrypsin deficiency but with severe COPD.
Methods: We evaluated baseline CT densitometry phenotypes in 282 individuals with emphysema enrolled in the Genetics Ancillary Study of the National Emphysema Treatment Trial, and used regression models to identify genetic variants associated with emphysema distribution.
Measurements and Main Results: Emphysema distribution was assessed by two methods—assessment by radiologists and by computerized density mask quantitation, using a threshold of −950 Hounsfield units. A total of 77 polymorphisms in 20 candidate genes were analyzed for association with distribution of emphysema. GSTP1, EPHX1, and MMP1 polymorphisms were associated with the densitometric, apical-predominant distribution of emphysema (p value range = 0.001–0.050). When an apical-predominant phenotype was defined by the radiologist scoring method, GSTP1 and EPHX1 single-nucleotide polymorphisms were found to be significantly associated. In a case–control analysis of COPD susceptibility limited to cases with densitometric upper-lobe–predominant cases, the EPHX1 His139Arg single-nucleotide polymorphism was associated with COPD (p = 0.005).
Conclusions: Apical and basal emphysematous destruction appears to be influenced by different genes. Polymorphisms in the xenobiotic enzymes, GSTP1 and EPHX1, are associated with apical-predominant emphysema. Altered detoxification of cigarette smoke metabolites may contribute to emphysema distribution, and these findings may lead to further insight into genetic determinants of emphysema.
PMCID: PMC2049064  PMID: 17363767
COPD; genetics; association analysis; computed tomography; emphysema
8.  T-Bet Polymorphisms Are Associated with Asthma and Airway Hyperresponsiveness 
Rationale: T-bet (TBX21 or T-box 21) is a critical regulator of T-helper 1 lineage commitment and IFN-γ production. Knockout mice lacking T-bet develop airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) to methacholine, peribronchial eosinophilic and lymphocytic inflammation, and increased type III collagen deposition below the bronchial epithelium basement membrane, reminiscent of both acute and chronic asthma histopathology. Little is known regarding the role of genetic variation surrounding T-bet in the development of human AHR.
Objectives: To assess the relationship between T-bet polymorphisms and asthma-related phenotypes using family-based association.
Methods: Single nucleotide polymorphism discovery was performed by resequencing the T-bet genomic locus in 30 individuals (including 22 patients with asthma). Sixteen variants were genotyped in 580 nuclear families ascertained through offspring with asthma from the Childhood Asthma Management Program clinical trial. Haplotype patterns were determined from this genotype data. Family-based tests of association were performed with asthma, AHR, lung function, total serum immunoglobulin E, and blood eosinophil levels.
Main Results: We identified 24 variants. Evidence of association was observed between c.−7947 and asthma in white families using both additive (p = 0.02) or dominant models (p = 0.006). c.−7947 and three other variants were also associated with AHR (log-methacholine PC20, p = 0.02–0.04). Haplotype analysis suggested that an AHR locus is in linkage disequilibrium with variants in the 3′UTR. Evidence of association of AHR with c.−7947, but not with other 3′UTR SNPs, was replicated in an independent cohort of adult males with AHR.
Conclusions: These data suggest that T-bet variation contributes to airway responsiveness in asthma.
PMCID: PMC2662983  PMID: 16179640
immunoglobulin E; single nucleotide polymorphism; T-box; TBX21
9.  Glutathione-S-Transferase M1, Obesity, Statins, and Autonomic Effects of Particles 
Rationale: Air pollution by particulate matter (PM) has been associated with cardiovascular deaths, although the mechanism of action is unclear. One proposed pathway is through disturbances of the autonomic control of the heart.
Objectives: We tested the hypothesis that such disturbances are mediated by PM increasing oxidative stress by examining the association between PM and the high-frequency (HF) component of heart rate variability as modified by the presence or absence of the allele for glutathione-S-transferase M1 (GSTM1) and the use of statins, obesity, high neutrophil counts, higher blood pressure, and older age.
Methods: We examined the association between particles less than 2.5 μM in aerodiameter (PM2.5) and HF in 497 participants in the Normative Aging Study, using linear regression controlling for covariates.
Main Results: A 10-μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 during the 48 h before HF measurement was associated with a 34% decrease in HF, 95% confidence interval (−9%, −52%), in subjects without the allele, but had no effect in subjects with GSTM1 present. Among GSTM1-null subjects, the use of statins eliminated the effect of PM2.5. Obesity and high neutrophil counts also worsened the PM effects with or without GSTM1.
Conclusion: The effects of PM2.5 on HF appear to be mediated by reactive oxygen species. This may be a key pathway for the adverse effects of combustion particles.
PMCID: PMC2718454  PMID: 16020798
genetic polymorphisms; heart rate variability; oxidative stress; particles

Results 1-9 (9)