Susceptibility Gene for Asthma Identified

April 9, 2008

Researchers have identified a gene conferring susceptibility to asthma in populations of European descent, according to research published online April 9 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

WEDNESDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified a gene conferring susceptibility to asthma in populations of European descent, according to research published online April 9 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Carole Ober, Ph.D., of the University of Chicago, and colleagues performed a genome-wide association study to identify genes affecting serum levels of the chitinase-like protein, YKL-40, in 753 Hutterites, a founder population of European descent. The researchers then investigated the association of an implicated single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) with asthma in the Hutterites, in two unrelated case-control populations of European descent and in a birth-cohort of children of European descent at high-risk for asthma.

A promoter SNP upstream from the gene encoding YKL-40, the chitinase 3-like 1 (CHI3L1) gene, was associated with serum YKL-40 levels, asthma, bronchial hyperresponsiveness and pulmonary function measures in the Hutterite population. In addition, this SNP predicted the presence of asthma in the two case-control populations and serum YKL-40 levels in the birth cohort.

These findings suggest that "CHI3L1 is a susceptibility gene for asthma, bronchial hyperresponsiveness and reduced lung function, and elevated YKL-40 levels are a biomarker for asthma and decline in lung function," the authors conclude.

Two study authors disclosed receiving consulting fees and grant support from pharmaceutical companies, including MedImmune, a company investigating YKL-40 as a potential therapeutic target in asthma. One co-author is an inventor for a chitinase assay licensed to MedImmune.

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