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Gene-environment interaction in atopic diseases: a population-based twin study of early-life exposures

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Niklas Kahr, Vibeke Naeser, Lone Graff Stensballe, Kirsten Ohm Kyvik, Axel Skytthe, Vibeke Backer, Klaus Bønnelykke, Simon Francis Thomsen

INTRODUCTION: The development of atopic diseases early in life suggests an important role of perinatal risk factors.

OBJECTIVES: To study whether early-life exposures modify the genetic influence on atopic diseases in a twin population.

METHODS: Questionnaire data on atopic diseases from 850 monozygotic and 2279 like-sex dizygotic twin pairs, 3-9 years of age, from the Danish Twin Registry were cross-linked with data on prematurity, Cesarean section, maternal age at birth, parental cohabitation, season of birth and maternal smoking during pregnancy, from the Danish National Birth Registry. Significant predictors of atopic diseases were identified with logistic regression and subsequently tested for genetic effect modification using variance components analysis.

RESULTS: After multivariable adjustment, prematurity (gestational age below 32 weeks) [odds ratio (OR) = 1.93, confidence interval (CI) = 1.45-2.56], Cesarean section (OR = 1.25, CI = 1.05-1.49) and maternal smoking during pregnancy (OR = 1.70, CI = 1.42-2.04) significantly influenced the risk of asthma, whereas none of the factors were significantly associated with atopic dermatitis and hay fever. Variance components analysis stratified by exposure status showed no significant change in the heritability of asthma according to the identified risk factors.

CONCLUSION: In this population-based study of children, there was no evidence of genetic effect modification of atopic diseases by several identified early-life risk factors. The causal relationship between these risk factors and atopic diseases may therefore be mediated via mechanisms different from gene-environment interaction.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Respiratory Journal
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)79-86
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Jan 2015

ID: 138147427