Functional genomics of CDHR3 confirms its role in HRV-C infection and childhood asthma exacerbations

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2019 Oct;144(4):962-971. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2019.01.052. Epub 2019 Mar 29.


Background: Research in transformed immortalized cell lines indicates the cadherin-related family member 3 (CDHR3) protein serves as a receptor for human rhinovirus (HRV)-C. Similar experiments indicate that the CDHR3 coding variant rs6967330 increases CDHR3 protein surface expression.

Objective: We sought to determine whether CDHR3 is necessary for HRV-C infection of primary airway epithelial cells (AECs) and to identify molecular mechanisms by which CDHR3 variants confer risk for asthma exacerbations.

Methods: CDHR3 function and influence on HRV-C infection were investigated by using single-cell transcriptomics, CRISPR-Cas9 gene knockout, and genotype-specific donor experiments performed in primary AECs. Nasal airway epithelium cis-expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) analysis of CDHR3 was performed, followed by association testing for asthma hospitalization in minority children.

Results: CDHR3 lung expression is exclusive to ciliated AECs and associated with basal bodies during and after motile ciliogenesis. Knockout of CDHR3 in human AECs did not prevent ciliated cell differentiation but was associated with a decrease in transepithelial resistance and an 80% decrease in HRV-C infection of the mucociliary epithelium. AECs from subjects homozygous for the risk-associated rs6967330 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) exhibited greater HRV-C infection compared with cells homozygous for the nonrisk allele. AEC cis-eQTL analysis indicated that rs6967330 and other SNPs are eQTLs for CDHR3. Only the eQTL block containing the rs6967330 SNP showed a significant association with childhood asthma hospitalization.

Conclusions: Genetic deletion and genotype-specific studies in primary AECs indicate CDHR3 is critical to HRV-C infection of ciliated cells. The rs6967330 SNP confers risk of severe childhood asthma exacerbations, likely through increasing HRV-C infection levels and protein surface localization.

Keywords: Airway epithelium; CRISPR; expression quantitative trait loci; rhinovirus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / genetics*
  • Cadherin Related Proteins
  • Cadherins / genetics*
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Child
  • Enterovirus
  • Enterovirus Infections / genetics*
  • Enterovirus Infections / metabolism
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Respiratory Mucosa / metabolism
  • Respiratory Mucosa / virology


  • CDHR3 protein, human
  • Cadherin Related Proteins
  • Cadherins
  • Membrane Proteins

Supplementary concepts

  • Rhinovirus C