Glutathione S-transferase genotypes and allergic responses to diisocyanate exposure

Pharmacogenetics. 2001 Jul;11(5):437-45. doi: 10.1097/00008571-200107000-00007.


Diisocyanates are the most common low molecular weight chemicals to cause occupational asthma. However, only some 5-10% of exposed workers develop asthma, which suggests an underlying genetic susceptibility. Diisocyanates and their metabolites may be conjugated with glutathione by glutathione S-transferases (GSTs). We examined whether polymorphisms in the GSTM1, GSTM3, GSTP1 and GSTT1 genes modify allergic responses to diisocyanate exposure. The study population consisted of 182 diisocyanate exposed workers, 109 diagnosed with diisocyanate-induced asthma and 73 without asthma. Lack of the GSTM1 gene (null genotype) was associated with a 1.89-fold risk of diisocyanate-induced asthma [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.01-3.52]. Moreover, among the asthma patients, the GSTM1 null genotype was associated with lack of diisocyanate-specific immunoglobulin (Ig)E antibodies [odds ratio (OR) 0.18, 95% CI 0.05-0.61] and with late reaction in the specific bronchial provocation test (OR 2.82, 95% CI 1.15-6.88). Similarly, GSTM3 AA genotype was related to late reaction in the specific bronchial provocation test (OR 3.75, 95% CI 1.26-11.2). The GSTP1 Val/Val genotype, on the other hand, was related to high total IgE levels (OR 5.46, 95% CI 1.15-26.0). The most remarkable effect was seen for the combination of GSTM1 null and the GSTM3 AA genotype which was strongly associated with lack of diisocyanate-specific IgE antibodies (OR 0.09, 95% CI 0.01-0.73) and with late reaction in the bronchial provocation test (OR 11.0, 95% CI 2.19-55.3). The results suggest, for the first time, that the polymorphic GSTs, especially the mu class GSTs, play an important role in inception of ill effects related to occupational exposure to diisocyanates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / chemically induced*
  • Asthma / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genotype*
  • Glutathione Transferase / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Isocyanates / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*


  • Isocyanates
  • Glutathione Transferase