Gene-environment interactions in asthma: with apologies to William of Ockham

Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2007 Jan;4(1):26-31. doi: 10.1513/pats.200607-144JG.


Many environmental factors and a large number of genetic polymorphisms have been reported to be associated with asthma risk in different locales and at different ages. It seems that what we call asthma is a heterogeneous set of conditions for which the only common feature is recurrent airway obstruction that is at least partially responsive to usual asthma therapy. Recent studies in which environmental factors and genetic variants were studied concomitantly have suggested a potential unifying concept for the disease. It seems that asthma is a genetically mediated development dysregulation of diverse immune and airway responses to a variety of specific and nonspecific exposures. It thus seems improbable that most genetic variants associated with asthma influence the disease regardless of which environmental factors trigger it and at which lifetime phase they are present. More likely, the most important gene variants for asthma are polymorphisms that exert their influence on the network system controlling biological responses to asthma-related exposures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / etiology
  • Asthma / genetics*
  • Endotoxins / genetics
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*


  • Endotoxins
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors