A Genome-Wide Association Study of Emphysema and Airway Quantitative Imaging Phenotypes

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2015 Sep 1;192(5):559-69. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201501-0148OC.


Rationale: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is defined by the presence of airflow limitation on spirometry, yet subjects with COPD can have marked differences in computed tomography imaging. These differences may be driven by genetic factors. We hypothesized that a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of quantitative imaging would identify loci not previously identified in analyses of COPD or spirometry. In addition, we sought to determine whether previously described genome-wide significant COPD and spirometric loci were associated with emphysema or airway phenotypes.

Objectives: To identify genetic determinants of quantitative imaging phenotypes.

Methods: We performed a GWAS on two quantitative emphysema and two quantitative airway imaging phenotypes in the COPDGene (non-Hispanic white and African American), ECLIPSE (Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints), NETT (National Emphysema Treatment Trial), and GenKOLS (Genetics of COPD, Norway) studies and on percentage gas trapping in COPDGene. We also examined specific loci reported as genome-wide significant for spirometric phenotypes related to airflow limitation or COPD.

Measurements and main results: The total sample size across all cohorts was 12,031, of whom 9,338 were from COPDGene. We identified five loci associated with emphysema-related phenotypes, one with airway-related phenotypes, and two with gas trapping. These loci included previously reported associations, including the HHIP, 15q25, and AGER loci, as well as novel associations near SERPINA10 and DLC1. All previously reported COPD and a significant number of spirometric GWAS loci were at least nominally (P < 0.05) associated with either emphysema or airway phenotypes.

Conclusions: Genome-wide analysis may identify novel risk factors for quantitative imaging characteristics in COPD and also identify imaging features associated with previously identified lung function loci.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00292552 NCT00608764.

Keywords: airway; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; emphysema; genetics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • GTPase-Activating Proteins / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Iron Regulatory Protein 2 / genetics
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / genetics
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / genetics*
  • Receptor for Advanced Glycation End Products / genetics
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / genetics
  • Serpins / genetics
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics


  • AGER protein, human
  • CHRNA5 protein, human
  • Carrier Proteins
  • DLC1 protein, human
  • GTPase-Activating Proteins
  • HHIP protein, human
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptor for Advanced Glycation End Products
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • SERPINA10 protein, human
  • Serpins
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • nicotinic receptor subunit alpha3
  • Iron Regulatory Protein 2

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00292552
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00608764