University of Leicester
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Genome-wide gene-air pollution interaction analysis of lung function in 300,000 individuals

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-05-18, 13:02 authored by C.A. Melbourne, A. Mesut Erzurumluoglu, N. Shrine, J. Chen, M.D. Tobin, A.L. Hansell, L.V. Wain
Background: Impaired lung function is predictive of mortality and is a key component of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Lung function has a strong genetic component but is also affected by environmental factors such as increased exposure to air pollution, but the effect of their interactions is not well understood. Objectives: To identify interactions between genetic variants and air pollution measures which affect COPD risk and lung function. Additionally, to determine whether previously identified lung function genetic association signals showed evidence of interaction with air pollution, considering both individual effects and combined effects using a genetic risk score (GRS). Methods: We conducted a genome-wide gene-air pollution interaction analysis of spirometry measures with three measures of air pollution at home address: particulate matter (PM2.5 & PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), in approximately 300,000 unrelated European individuals from UK Biobank. We explored air pollution interactions with previously identified lung function signals and determined their combined interaction effect using a GRS. Results: We identified seven new genome-wide interaction signals (P<5×10-8), and a further ten suggestive interaction signals (P<5×10-7). Additionally, we found statistical evidence of interaction for FEV1/FVC between PM2.5 and previously identified lung function signal, rs10841302, near AEBP2, suggesting increased susceptibility as copies of the G allele increased (but size of the impact was small - interaction beta: -0.363 percentage points, 95% CI: -0.523, -0.203 per 5 µg/m3). There was no observed interaction between air pollutants and the weighted GRS. Discussion: We carried out the largest genome-wide gene-air pollution interaction study of lung function and identified potential effects of clinically relevant size and significance. We observed up to 440 ml lower lung function for certain genotypes when exposed to mean levels of outdoor air pollution, which is approximately equivalent to nine years of average normal loss of lung function in adults.


Louise Wain holds a GSK/British Lung Foundation Chair in Respiratory Research (C17-1). The research was partially supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre. Martin Tobin is supported by a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award (WT202849/Z/16/Z) and holds an NIHR Senior Investigator Award. Anna Hansell acknowledges funding from the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Exposures and Health, a partnership between the UK Health Security Agency (previously Public Health England), the Health and Safety Executive and the University of Leicester.



Environment International 159 (2022) 107041

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Department of Health Sciences


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