Background Several recessive Mendelian disorders are common in Europeans, including cystic fibrosis (CFTR), medium-chain-acyl-Co-A-dehydrogenase deficiency (ACADM), phenylketonuria (PAH) and alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency (SERPINA1).
Methods In a multicohort study of >19 000 older individuals, we investigated the relevant phenotypes in heterozygotes for these genes: lung function (forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC)) for CFTR and SERPINA1; cognitive measures for ACADM and PAH; and physical capability for ACADM, PAH and SERPINA1.
Results Findings were mostly negative but lung function in SERPINA1 (protease inhibitor (PI) Z allele, rs28929474) showed enhanced FEV1 and FVC (0.13 z-score increase in FEV1 (p=1.7×10−5) and 0.16 z-score increase in FVC (p=5.2×10−8)) in PI-MZ individuals. Height adjustment (a known, strong correlate of FEV1 and FVC) revealed strong positive height associations of the Z allele (1.50 cm increase in height (p=3.6×10−10)).
Conclusions The PI-MZ rare (2%) SNP effect is nearly four times greater than the ‘top’ common height SNP in HMGA2. However, height only partially attenuates the SERPINA1-FEV1 or FVC association (around 50%) and vice versa. Height SNP variants have recently been shown to be positively selected collectively in North versus South Europeans, while the Z allele high frequency is localised to North Europe. Although PI-ZZ is clinically disadvantageous to lung function, PI-MZ increases both height and respiratory function; potentially a balanced polymorphism. Partial blockade of PI could conceivably form part of a future poly-therapeutic approach in very short children. The notion that elastase inhibition should benefit patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may also merit re-evaluation. PI is already a therapeutic target: our findings invite a reconsideration of the optimum level in respiratory care and novel pathway potential for development of agents for the management of growth disorders.
- Alpha 1-Antitrypsin
- Mendelian carriers
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