Gene-environment interaction for childhood asthma and exposure to farming in Central Europe

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011 Jan;127(1):138-44, 144.e1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2010.09.041.


Background: Asthma is a disease in which both genetic and environmental factors play important roles. The farming environment has consistently been associated with protection from childhood asthma and atopy, and interactions have been reported with polymorphisms in innate immunity genes.

Objective: To detect gene-environment interactions for asthma and atopy in the farming environment.

Methods: We performed a genome-wide interaction analysis for asthma and atopy by using 500,000 genotyped single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and farm-related exposures in 1708 children from 4 rural regions of Central Europe. We also tested selectively for interactions between farm exposures and 7 SNPs that emerged as genome-wide significant in a large meta-analysis of childhood asthma and 5 SNPs that had been reported previously as interacting with farm exposures for asthma or atopy.

Results: Neither the asthma-associated SNPs nor the SNPs previously published for interactions with asthma showed significant interactions. The genome-wide interaction study did not reveal any significant interactions with SNPs within genes in the range of interacting allele frequencies from 30% to 70%, for which our study was well powered. Among rarer SNPs, we identified 15 genes with strong interactions for asthma or atopy in relation to farming, contact with cows and straw, or consumption of raw farm milk.

Conclusion: Common genetic polymorphisms are unlikely to moderate the protective influence of the farming environment on childhood asthma and atopy, but rarer variants, particularly of the glutamate receptor, metabotropic 1 gene, may do so. Given the limited statistical power of our study, these findings should be interpreted with caution before being replicated in independent farm populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Agriculture*
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Europe
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Rural Population


  • Immunoglobulin E