Gene variants may determine lung function and susceptibility to maternal smoking

March 26, 2009

A tiny variation within a single gene can determine not only how quickly and well lungs grow and function in children and adolescents, but how susceptible those children will be to exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke, even in utero, according to researchers from the University of Southern California.

"Many factors can affect lung function and growth, including genetic variation and environmental exposures such as tobacco smoke and air pollutants," said Carrie Breton, Sc.D., lead author of the study conducted at the University of Southern California. "We wanted to determine whether specific gene variations would have measurable and predictable effects on lung function growth and susceptibility to environmental insults. We looked at a class of genes known to be involved in antioxidant defense, the glutathione-s transferase (GST) genes. Overall, we found that variation in several of the GST genes was important. This was particularly true for children of mothers who had smoked during pregnancy."

The researchers analyzed eight years' worth of lung function metrics and genotyping data from more than 2,100 children from two cohorts of fourth-graders. The lung function measurements used were maximal mid expiratory flow rate (MMEF), forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1).

"FEV1 is a measure of large airways, FVC of total lung volume and MMEF of smaller airways, so they measure slightly different things and we wouldn't necessarily expect to see all outcomes behaving the same," said Dr. Breton.

They found that for three of the specific haplotypes (patterns of genetic variation within genes) they investigated, each had a significant effect on lung function.

For one gene, GSTM2, two variant patterns were analyzed. These patterns occurred in 30-35 percent of the white population. One was found to promote stronger lung function, while the other variant was correlated with poorer lung function and greater susceptibility to damage caused by maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy. Moreover, the reduction in lung function was greater in children who had two copies of the variant pattern that reduced lung function, compared to children with only one copy.

For a relatively rarer haplotype in GSTM3, occurring in only 6-8 percent of the white population, they found a strong negative effect on MMEF.

Finally, another haplotype in GSTM4, occurring in 16-22% of the population, showed significantly decreased rates of growth for FEV1, FVC and MMEF. Like GSTM2, the reduction in lung function was greatest in children who had two copies of the variant pattern that reduced lung function.

The researchers suggest that the gene variants may not alter the development of the lung, but its ability to defend itself against damage caused by free radicals. "The GST genes are important to the detoxification of reactive oxygen species, including carcinogens and environmental exposures, such as cigarette smoke. We speculate that the patterns of genetic variation we investigated may alter this process, thereby reducing the lung's ability to detoxify harmful agents and causing a cascade of other events that promote inflammation, bronchial constriction, airway hyperresponsiveness and asthma-like symptoms," said Dr. Breton.

"The next step would be to investigate how these genes interact with one another to jointly effect lung development. Future studies should also investigate the timing and quantity of tobacco smoke exposure during pregnancy in combination with variation in these genes to further understand how they jointly affect fetal lung development," said Dr. Breton.
-end-


American Thoracic Society

Related Genetic Variation Articles from Brightsurf:

How genetic variation gives rise to differences in mathematical ability
DNA variation in a gene called ROBO1 is associated with early anatomical differences in a brain region that plays a key role in quantity representation, potentially explaining how genetic variability might shape mathematical performance in children, according to a study published October 22nd in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Michael Skeide of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, and colleagues.

Genetic variation unlikely to influence COVID-19 morbidity and mortality
A comprehensive search of genetic variation databases has revealed no significant differences across populations and ethnic groups in seven genes associated with viral entry of SARS-CoV-2.

Researchers find pronghorn exhibit little genetic variation despite landscape obstacles
While previous research shows landscape features such as major highways restrict the daily and seasonal movements of pronghorn and increase mortality risk, this study found little, if any, evidence that these barriers affect genetic connectivity among Wyoming pronghorn.

gnomAD Consortium releases its first major studies of human genetic variation
For the last eight years, the Genome Aggregation Database (gnomAD) Consortium (and its predecessor, the Exome Aggregation Consortium, or ExAC), has been working with geneticists around the world to compile and study more than 125,000 exomes and 15,000 whole genomes from populations around the world.

Individual genetic variation in immune system may affect severity of COVID-19
Genetic variability in the human immune system may affect susceptibility to, and severity of infection by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus responsible for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Genetic variation not an obstacle to gene drive strategy to control mosquitoes
New research from entomologists at UC Davis clears a potential obstacle to using CRISPR-Cas9 'gene drive' technology to control mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and Zika.

Genetic variation gives mussels a chance to adapt to climate change
Existing genetic variation in natural populations of Mediterranean mussels allows them to adapt to declining pH levels in seawater caused by carbon emissions.

A genetic tug-of-war between the sexes begets variation
In species with sexual reproduction, no two individuals are alike and scientists have long struggled to understand why there is so much genetic variation.

Scientists identify genetic variation linked to severity of ALS
A discovery made several years ago in a lab researching asthma at Wake Forest School of Medicine may now have implications for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease with no known cure and only two FDA-approved drugs to treat its progression and severity.

Genetic variation contributes to individual differences in pleasure
Differences in how our brains respond when we're anticipating a financial reward are due, in part, to genetic differences, according to research with identical and fraternal twins published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Read More: Genetic Variation News and Genetic Variation Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.