BACKGROUND: It has recently been shown that vitamin D deficiency can increase asthma development and severity and that variations in vitamin D receptor genes are associated with asthma susceptibility. OBJECTIVE: We sought to find genetic factors that might interact with vitamin D levels to affect the risk of asthma exacerbation. METHODS: We conducted a genome-wide study of gene-vitamin D interaction on asthma exacerbations using population-based and family-based approaches on 403 subjects and trios from the Childhood Asthma Management Program. Twenty-three polymorphisms with significant interactions were studied in a replication analysis in 584 children from a Costa Rican cohort. RESULTS: We identified 3 common variants in the class I MHC-restricted T cell-associated molecule gene (CRTAM) that were associated with an increased rate of asthma exacerbations based on the presence of a low circulating vitamin D level. These results were replicated in a second independent population (unadjusted combined interaction, P = .00028-.00097; combined odds ratio, 3.28-5.38). One variant, rs2272094, is a nonsynonymous coding polymorphism of CRTAM. Functional studies on cell lines confirmed the interaction of vitamin D and rs2272094 on CRTAM expression. CRTAM is highly expressed in activated human CD8(+) and natural killer T cells, both of which have been implicated in asthmatic patients. CONCLUSION: The findings highlight an important gene-environment interaction that elucidates the role of vitamin D and CD8(+) and natural killer T cells in asthma exacerbation in a genome-wide gene-environment interaction study that has been replicated in an independent population. The results suggest the potential importance of maintaining adequate vitamin D levels in subsets of high-risk asthmatic patients.
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