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Genetic correlation and causal relationships between cardio-metabolic traits and Lung function Impairment

By Matthias Wielscher, Andre FS Amaral, Diana van der Plaat, Louise V. Wain, Sylvain Sebert, David Mosen-Ansorena, Juha Auvinen, Karl-Heinz Herzig, Abbas Dehghan, Debbie L Jarvis, Marjo-Riitta Jarvelin

Posted 22 Sep 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.09.16.20190306

Background: Associations of low lung function with features of poor cardio-metabolic health have been reported. It is, however, unclear whether these co-morbidities reflect causal associations, shared genetic heritability or are confounded by environmental factors. Methods We performed three analyses: 1) cardio-metabolic health to lung function association tests in NFBC1966, 2) cross trait LD score regression to compare genetic backgrounds and 3) Mendelian Randomization (MR) analysis to assess the causal effect of cardio-metabolic traits and disease on lung function, and vice versa (bidirectional MR). Genetic associations were obtained from UK Biobank data or published large-scale genome-wide association studies (N > 82,000). Results We observed negative genetic correlation between lung function and cardio-metabolic traits and diseases. In Mendelian Randomisation analysis (MR) we found associations between Type 2 Diabetes instruments and FVC as well as FEV1/FVC. BMI instruments were associated to all lung function traits and CRP instruments to FVC. These genetic association provide evidence for a causal effect of cardio-metabolic traits on lung function. Multivariable MR suggested independence of these causal effects from other tested cardio-metabolic traits and diseases. Analysis of lung function specific SNPs revealed a potential causal effect of FEV1/FVC on blood pressure. Conclusions: The present study overcomes many limitations of observational studies by using Mendelian Randomisation. We provide evidence for an independent causal effect of T2D, CRP and BMI on lung function with some of the T2D effect on lung function being mediated by CRP. Furthermore, this analysis suggests a potential causal effect of FEV1/FVC on blood pressure. Our detailed analysis of the interplay between cardio-metabolic traits and impaired lung function provides the opportunity to improve the quality of existing intervention strategies.

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