Genetic analyses in asthma: current concepts and future directions

Am J Pharmacogenomics. 2002;2(3):155-66. doi: 10.2165/00129785-200202030-00001.


Asthma is a complex genetic disorder with a heterogeneous phenotype, largely attributed to the interactions among many genes and between these genes and the environment. Numerous loci and candidate genes have been reported to show linkage and association of asthma and the asthma-associated phenotypes, atopy, elevated immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels, and bronchial hyper-responsiveness to alleles of microsatellite markers and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within specific cytokine/chemokine, and IgE regulating genes. While many studies reporting these observations are compelling, only one asthma gene conferring high risk has been mapped. In this review, we present studies that support linkage and/or associations to the various genetic loci and genes in asthma. The first genome-wide scan for linkage to quantitative traits underlying asthma identified linkage on chromosome 4q, 6, 7, 11q, 13q and 16. A genome scan in American families from three racial groups revealed linkage to chromosome 2q, 5q, 6p, 12q, 13q and 14q. A two-stage scan in Hutterite families from the US found linkage on chromosome 5q, 12q, 19q and 21q. A screen in German families identified linkage to asthma on chromosome 2q, 6p, 9 and 12q and a two-stage genome scan in French families found replicated linkage on chromosomes 1p, 12q and 17q. A study of asthma in Finland showed linkage to high IgE on 7q14. Apart from a European linkage study of 199 families with atopic dermatitis, which demonstrated significant linkage to chromosome 3q21, three other studies have reported linkage results of genome-wide significance, including a linkage study in 175 Icelandic asthma families (14q24), a study in 533 Chinese families with bronchial hyper-responsiveness (chromosome 2) and a study in 47 Japanese families with mite-sensitive atopic asthma (5q31), suggesting that these regions may harbor genes contributing to the development of asthma and allergies. While significant progress has been made in the field of asthma genetics in the past decade, the clinical implications of the genes and genetic variations within the numerous candidate asthma genes that have been found to associate with the expression of the asthmatic phenotype, remain undetermined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / genetics*
  • Databases, Genetic / statistics & numerical data
  • Genetic Linkage / genetics*
  • Humans