A genetic risk score associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease susceptibility and lung structure on computed tomography

Elizabeth C. Oelsner, Victor E. Ortega, Benjamin M. Smith, Jennifer N. Nguyen, Ani W. Manichaikul, Eric A. Hoffman, Xiuqing Guo, Kent D. Taylor, Prescott G. Woodruff, David J. Couper, Nadia N. Hansel, Fernando J. Martinez, Robert Paine, Meilan K. Han, Christopher Cooper, Mark T. Dransfield, Gerard Criner, Jerry A. Krishnan, Russell Bowler, Eugene R. BleeckerStephen Peters, Stephen S. Rich, Deborah A. Meyers, Jerome I. Rotter, R. Graham Barr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)721-731
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican journal of respiratory and critical care medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 15 2019


  • Airway remodeling
  • Emphysema
  • Spirometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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