Effect of rare variants in ADRB2 on risk of severe exacerbations and symptom control during longacting β agonist treatment in a multiethnic asthma population: a genetic study

Lancet Respir Med. 2014 Mar;2(3):204-13. doi: 10.1016/S2213-2600(13)70289-3. Epub 2014 Jan 27.


Background: Severe adverse life-threatening events associated with longacting β agonist (LABA) use have caused the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review the safety of these drugs, resulting in a boxed warning and a mandatory safety study in 46 800 patients with asthma. Identification of an at-risk, susceptible subpopulation on the basis of predictive biomarkers is crucial for understanding LABA safety. The β2-adrenergic receptor gene (ADRB2) contains a common, non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphism, Gly16Arg, that is unlikely to account for the rare, life-threatening events seen with LABA use. We hypothesise that rare ADRB2 variants modulate therapeutic responses to LABA therapy and contribute to rare, severe adverse events.

Methods: In this genetic study, ADRB2 was sequenced in 197 African American, 191 non-Hispanic white, and 73 Puerto Rican patients. Sequencing identified six rare variants, which were genotyped in 1165 patients with asthma. The primary hypothesis was that severe asthma exacerbations requiring hospital admission were associated with rare ADRB2 variants in patients receiving LABA therapy. This outcome was assessed overall and by ethnic group. Replication was done in 659 non-Hispanic white patients with asthma.

Findings: Patients receiving LABA with a rare ADRB2 variant had increased asthma-related hospital admissions (15 [44%] of 34 patients with rare variant vs 121 [22%] of 553 patients with common ADRB2 alleles admitted to hospital in past 12 months; meta-analysis for all ethnic groups, p=0·0003). Specifically, increases in hospital admission rates were recorded in LABA-treated non-Hispanic white patients with the rare Ile 164 allele compared with non-Hispanic white patients with the common allele (odds ratio [OR] 4·48, 95% CI 1·40-13·96, p=0·01) and African American patients with a 25 bp promoter polynucleotide insertion, -376ins, compared with African American patients with the common allele (OR 13·43, 95% CI 2·02-265·42, p=0·006). The subset of non-Hispanic white and African American patients receiving LABAs with these rare variants had increased exacerbations requiring urgent outpatient health-care visits (non-Hispanic white patients with or without the rare Ile 164 allele, 2·6 [SD 3·5] vs 1·1 [2·1] visits, p<0·0001; and African American patients with or without the rare insertion, 3·7 [4·6] vs 2·4 [3·4] visits, p=0·01), and more frequently were treated with chronic systemic corticosteroids (OR 4·25, 95% CI 1·38-14·41, p=0·01, and 12·83, 1·96-251·93, p=0·006). Non-Hispanic white patients from the primary and replication cohorts with the rare Ile 164 allele were more than twice as likely as Thr 164 homozygotes to have uncontrolled, persistent symptoms during LABA treatment (p=0·008-0·04).

Interpretation: The rare ADRB2 variants Ile164 and -376ins are associated with adverse events during LABA therapy and should be evaluated in large clinical trials including the current FDA-mandated safety study.

Funding: US National Institutes of Health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • African Americans / genetics*
  • Aged
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / ethnology
  • Asthma / genetics*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / genetics*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2 / genetics*
  • United States
  • Whites / genetics*
  • Young Adult


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2