Genome-wide Association Study of Susceptibility to Particulate Matter-Associated QT Prolongation

Environ Health Perspect. 2017 Jun 8;125(6):067002. doi: 10.1289/EHP347.


Background: Ambient particulate matter (PM) air pollution exposure has been associated with increases in QT interval duration (QT). However, innate susceptibility to PM-associated QT prolongation has not been characterized.

Objective: To characterize genetic susceptibility to PM-associated QT prolongation in a multi-racial/ethnic, genome-wide association study (GWAS).

Methods: Using repeated electrocardiograms (1986–2004), longitudinal data on PM<10 μm in diameter (PM10), and generalized estimating equations methods adapted for low-prevalence exposure, we estimated approximately 2.5×106 SNP×PM10 interactions among nine Women’s Health Initiative clinical trials and Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study subpopulations (n=22,158), then combined subpopulation-specific results in a fixed-effects, inverse variance-weighted meta-analysis.

Results: A common variant (rs1619661; coded allele: T) significantly modified the QT-PM10 association (p=2.11×10−8). At PM10 concentrations >90th percentile, QT increased 7 ms across the CC and TT genotypes: 397 (95% confidence interval: 396, 399) to 404 (403, 404) ms. However, QT changed minimally across rs1619661 genotypes at lower PM10 concentrations. The rs1619661 variant is on chromosome 10, 132 kilobase (kb) downstream from <em>CXCL12</em>, which encodes a chemokine, stromal cell-derived factor 1, that is expressed in cardiomyocytes and decreases calcium influx across the L-type Ca2+ channel.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that biologically plausible genetic factors may alter susceptibility to PM10-associated QT prolongation in populations protected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Independent replication and functional characterization are necessary to validate our findings.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Particulate Matter / analysis


  • Air Pollutants
  • CXCL12 protein, human
  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Particulate Matter

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