Glutathione S-transferase copy number variation alters lung gene expression

Eur Respir J. 2011 Jul;38(1):15-28. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00029210. Epub 2011 Feb 24.


The glutathione S-transferase (GST) enzymes catalyse the conjugation of xenobiotics to glutathione. Based on reports that inherited copy number variations (CNVs) modulate some GST gene expression levels, and that the small airway epithelium (SAE) and alveolar macrophages (AMs) are involved early in the pathogenesis of smoking-induced lung disease, we asked: do germline CNVs modulate GST expression levels in SAE and AMs? Microarrays were used to survey GST gene expression and determine CNVs genotypes in SAE and AMs obtained by bronchoscopy from current smokers and nonsmokers. 26% of subjects were null for both GSTM1 alleles, with reduced GSTM1 mRNA levels seen in both SAE and AMs. 30% of subjects had homozygous deletions of GSTT1, with reduced mRNA levels in both tissues. Interestingly, GSTT2B exhibited homozygous deletion in the blood of 27% of subjects and was not expressed in SAE in the remainder of subjects, but was expressed in AMs of heterozygotes and wild-type subjects, proportionate to genotype. These data show a germline CNV-mediated linear relationship of genotype with expression level, suggesting minimal compensation of gene expression levels in heterozygotes, consistent with GST polymorphisms playing a role in the risk of smoking-associated, xenobiotic-induced lung disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Female
  • Gene Dosage*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Genotype
  • Glutathione Transferase / genetics*
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Lung / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Polymorphism, Genetic


  • GSTT2 protein, human
  • glutathione S-transferase T1
  • Glutathione Transferase
  • glutathione S-transferase M1