In Caucasian men, researchers identified a variant in the vitamin D receptor gene, associated with the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The study population consisted of participants in the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study, a multidisciplinary study of aging that began in 1963.
"Our results show that this gene variant is associated with development of COPD in Caucasian men, and provides support for the notion that vitamin D metabolic pathways may affect COPD risk," said Audrey Poon, postdoctoral fellow at Meakins-Christie Laboratories, McGill University Health Centre in Montreal.
The vitamin D metabolic pathway has been implicated in the development of COPD.
"Several variants of genes that control vitamin D function and metabolism have been associated with COPD and other lung diseases, but results have been conflicting," Poon said.
"In this study we investigated variants in two vitamin D pathway genes and their association with development of COPD."
Using DNA data from the VA study, the researchers determined the genotypes of 24 variants in the vitamin D receptor gene and 12 in the vitamin D binding protein gene in a total of 1,215 men. All subjects were free of known chronic conditions, including coronary heart disease, hypertension, chronic lung disease, asthma and diabetes at the time of recruitment. The VA study also offered data from repeated lung function measures conducted over 40 years, as well as smoking information for the participants.
The researchers used the lung function data to measure the time it took for participants to develop COPD, evaluating all 36 gene variants. They found variant rs3847987 of the VDR gene was found to influence the time to onset of COPD in the study population.
The study will be presented at the ATS 2011 International Conference.