Variations in expression of a gene called ORMDL3 are associated with the development of childhood asthma, according to a report published online in Nature. The study suggests that this gene should be examined further in patient groups.
Asthma is caused by a combination of poorly understood genetic and environmental factors. William Cookson and colleagues here set out to find genes contributing to childhood onset asthma, using a genome-wide association scan to investigate the effects of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). They compared DNA from thousands of patient cases and controls, and report that multiple markers at the chromosome 17q21 locus are strongly and reproducibly associated with childhood asthma. Moreover, they show that the SNPs linked with childhood asthma are associated with expression levels of the gene ORMDL3.
ORMDL3 is the third member of a novel class of genes whose precise function is unknown - it is believed to encode a transmembrane protein that is anchored within an intracellular structure known as the endoplasmic reticulum. The authors propose that the interactions of ORMDL3 with environmental risk factors for asthma should be explored in greater detail in large-scale, multicentre studies.
William Cookson (National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, UK)
Mark Lathrop (Centre National de Genotypage, Evry, France)Co-author
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature press release.
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