A Genetic Risk Score Associated with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Susceptibility and Lung Structure on Computed Tomography

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2019 Sep 15;200(6):721-731. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201812-2355OC.


Rationale: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been associated with numerous genetic variants, yet the extent to which its genetic risk is mediated by variation in lung structure remains unknown.Objectives: To characterize associations between a genetic risk score (GRS) associated with COPD susceptibility and lung structure on computed tomography (CT).Methods: We analyzed data from MESA Lung (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis Lung Study), a U.S. general population-based cohort, and SPIROMICS (Subpopulations and Intermediate Outcome Measures in COPD Study). A weighted GRS was calculated from 83 SNPs that were previously associated with lung function. Lung density, spatially matched airway dimensions, and airway counts were assessed on full-lung CT. Generalized linear models were adjusted for age, age squared, sex, height, principal components of genetic ancestry, smoking status, pack-years, CT model, milliamperes, and total lung volume.Measurements and Main Results: MESA Lung and SPIROMICS contributed 2,517 and 2,339 participants, respectively. Higher GRS was associated with lower lung function and increased COPD risk, as well as lower lung density, smaller airway lumens, and fewer small airways, without effect modification by smoking. Adjustment for CT lung structure, particularly small airway measures, attenuated associations between the GRS and FEV1/FVC by 100% and 60% in MESA and SPIROMICS, respectively. Lung structure (P < 0.0001), but not the GRS (P > 0.10), improved discrimination of moderate-to-severe COPD cases relative to clinical factors alone.Conclusions: A GRS associated with COPD susceptibility was associated with CT lung structure. Lung structure may be an important mediator of heritability and determinant of personalized COPD risk.

Keywords: airway remodeling; emphysema; spirometry.

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.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / genetics*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • United States / epidemiology

Grant support