The role of environmental tobacco smoke in genetic susceptibility to asthma

Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004 Oct;4(5):335-9. doi: 10.1097/00130832-200410000-00002.


Purpose of review: The increase in asthma prevalence over the past 50 years suggests that exposures to environmental risk factors have also increased during this time. Environmental tobacco smoke is one of the most common indoor air pollutants and has been associated in epidemiologic studies with airway and allergic phenotypes in exposed individuals. However, symptoms occur in only some individuals, suggesting that individual genotypes determine sensitivity to environmental tobacco smoke exposure. In this review, we summarize studies evaluating the relationship between genotype, environmental tobacco smoke exposure and risk for asthma and related phenotypes.

Recent findings: Using either candidate gene or genome-wide approaches, a number of studies have examined interactions between genotypes at specific loci or genome regions and environmental tobacco smoke exposure and risk for asthma or asthma-associated phenotypes. These studies implicate variation in the genes encoding the alpha(2)-adrenergic receptor, interleukin-10, glutathione S-transferase M1, interleukin-1 beta and interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, matrix metalloproteinases 1 and 12, interleukin-4 receptor alpha-chain, alpha(1)-antitrypsin, and microsomal epoxide hydrolase, as well as unknown genes on chromosomes 1p, 5q and 17p as contributing toward susceptibility in smoking exposed individuals.

Summary: Considering environmental tobacco smoke exposure in genetic studies may help to identify more homogeneous subsets of patients that share a common disease etiology. By stratifying samples by environmental tobacco smoke exposure, associations or linkages with specific polymorphisms or chromosomal region may be revealed, as illustrated in the studies discussed in this review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / genetics
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Humans
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution