The APOE ε4 allele is associated with a reduction in FEV1/FVC in women: A cross-sectional analysis of the Long Life Family Study

Kulminski, Alexander M.; Barochia, Amisha V.; Loika, Yury; Raghavachari, Nalini; Arbeev, Konstantin G.; Wojczynski, Mary K.; Thyagarajan, Bharat; Vardarajan, Badri N.; Christensen, Kaare; Yashin, Anatoliy I.; Levine, Stewart J.

Murine studies have shown that apolipoprotein E modulates pulmonary function during development, aging, and allergen-induced airway disease. It is not known whether the polymorphic human APOE gene influences pulmonary function.

We assessed whether an association exists between the polymorphic human APOE ε2, ε3, and ε4 alleles and pulmonary function among participants in the Long Life Family Study.

Data from 4,468 Caucasian subjects who had genotyping performed for the APOE ε2, ε3, and ε4 alleles were analyzed, with and without stratification by sex. Statistical models were fitted considering the effects of the ε2 allele, defined as ε2/2 or ε2/3 genotypes, and the ε4 allele, defined as ε3/4 or ε4/4 genotypes, which were compared to the ε3/3 genotype.

The mean FEV1/FVC ratio (the forced expiratory volume in one second divided by the forced vital capacity) was lower among women with the ε4 allele as compared to women with the ε3/3 genotype or the ε2 allele. Carriage of the APOE ε4 allele was associated with FEV1/FVC, which implied lower values. Further analysis showed that the association primarily reflected women without lung disease who were older than 70 years. The association was not mediated by lipid levels, smoking status, body mass index, or cardiovascular disease.

This study for the first time identifies that the APOE gene is associated with modified lung physiology in women. This suggests that a link may exist between the APOE ε4 allele, female sex, and a reduction in the FEV1/FVC ratio in older individuals.


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Taub Institute
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April 16, 2019