Published: 17-12-2009 00:00 | Updated: 14-03-2014 15:04

Gene variant connected with lung function and risk of COPD

A variant of the gene encoding the MMP12 protein is associated with increased lung function in children with asthma and in adult smokers. It is also associated with a decreased risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by 35 percent in adult smokers, according to an international study published in New England Journal of Medicine.

Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are obstructive airway diseases that involve chronic inflammation of the lower respiratory tract. In the current study the researchers investigated the association between lung function and single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the gene encoding the pro-inflammatory protein matrix metalloproteinase 12 (MMP12). The study was conducted in cohorts that included both children and adults.

The research team first found that a functional variant in the promoter of the MMP12 gene was positively associated with the forced expiratory volume (FEV) in children with asthma. They also observed that this variant was associated with increased FEV in adult current and former smokers, but not in adults who had never smoked. Finally, they found an association between the same MMP12 gene variant and a reduced risk of COPD in adult cohorts.

The study was partly based on the Swedish BAMSE cohort, and researchers from Karolinska Institutet contributed to the findings, amongst them Erik Melén at the Institute of Environmental Medicine. The study was lead by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women's Hospital in the US.


MMP12, lung function, and COPD in high-risk populations
Hunninghake GM, Cho MH, Tesfaigzi Y et al.
New England Journal of Medicine, 2009 Dec 31;361(27):2599-608, doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0904006, Epub 2009 Dec 16