Limited overlap in significant hits between genome-wide association studies on two airflow obstruction definitions in the same population.
van der Plaat DA., Vonk JM., Lahousse L., de Jong K., Faiz A., Nedeljkovic I., Amin N., van Diemen CC., Brusselle GG., Bossé Y., Brandsma C-A., Hao K., Paré PD., van Duijn CM., Postma DS., Boezen HM.
BACKGROUND: Airflow obstruction is a hallmark of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and is defined as either the ratio between forced expiratory volume in one second and forced vital capacity (FEV1/FVC) < 70% or < lower limit of normal (LLN). This study aimed to assess the overlap between genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on airflow obstruction using these two definitions in the same population stratified by smoking. METHODS: GWASes were performed in the LifeLines Cohort Study for both airflow obstruction definitions in never-smokers (NS = 5071) and ever-smokers (ES = 4855). The FEV1/FVC < 70% models were adjusted for sex, age, and height; FEV1/FVC < LLN models were not adjusted. Ever-smokers models were additionally adjusted for pack-years and current-smoking. The overlap in significantly associated SNPs between the two definitions and never/ever-smokers was assessed using several p-value thresholds. To quantify the agreement, the Pearson correlation coefficient was calculated between the p-values and ORs. Replication was performed in the Vlagtwedde-Vlaardingen study (NS = 432, ES = 823). The overlapping SNPs with p < 10- 4 were validated in the Vlagtwedde-Vlaardingen and Rotterdam Study cohorts (NS = 1966, ES = 3134) and analysed for expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) in lung tissue (n = 1087). RESULTS: In the LifeLines cohort, 96% and 93% of the never- and ever-smokers were classified concordantly based on the two definitions. 26 and 29% of the investigated SNPs were overlapping at p < 0.05 in never- and ever-smokers, respectively. At p < 10- 4 the overlap was 4% and 6% respectively, which could be change findings as shown by simulation studies. The effect estimates of the SNPs of the two definitions correlated strongly, but the p-values showed more variation and correlated only moderately. Similar observations were made in the Vlagtwedde-Vlaardingen study. Two overlapping SNPs in never-smokers (NFYC and FABP7) had the same direction of effect in the validation cohorts and the NFYC SNP was an eQTL for NFYC-AS1. NFYC is a transcription factor that binds to several known COPD genes, and FABP7 may be involved in abnormal pulmonary development. CONCLUSIONS: The definition of airflow obstruction and the population under study may be important determinants of which SNPs are associated with airflow obstruction. The genes FABP7 and NFYC(-AS1) could play a role in airflow obstruction in never-smokers specifically.