Genetics of Asthma Sub-Phenotypes Impact Gene Regulation in Cell-Specific Patterns
PROJECT SUMMARY/ABSTRACT This proposal outlines an integrated research and career development plan for Nathan Schoettler, MD, PhD to conduct training in the laboratory of Dr. Carole Ober and transition to an independent academic position by establishing a research program at the interface of genetics and immunology with a NIH mentored career award (K08). The PI recently completed an NIH T32 fellowship (T32 HL007605) and is trained in the fields of immunology, genetics, molecular biology and cell biology, and during the time of this K08 award, the PI will receive additional academic guidance from additional co-mentors (Dr. Dan Nicolae and Dr. Anne Sperling) and advisors (Dr. Julian Solway, and Dr. Hae Kyung Im) at the University of Chicago. The career development plan is designed to equip the PI with the necessary knowledge and skills in statistical genetics and cellular immunology for a successful transition to an independent academician, and R01 funding. The overall goal of the proposed research is to elucidate the role of genetic variation in regulating the expression of genes in specific lung cell types that play a critical role in asthma. Asthma is a complex genetic disease with high heritability, yet how genetic variation influences pathobiological mechanisms, or endotypes, in asthma has not been resolved. Studies conducted by the PI during his post-doctoral T32 phase demonstrated that childhood- onset and adult-onset asthma have both shared and distinct genetic risk loci (Lancet Resp Med 2019). The PI furthermore showed that human lung tissue resident memory T cells, a subset of T cells that do not circulate in the blood, are programmed differently and derived from a separate pool of progenitor than lung-draining lymph node memory T cell subsets (Comm Biol, in press), and they rapidly increase the expression of key asthma cytokines when activated. This K08 research proposal tests the overall hypothesis that specific asthma sub- phenotypes have shared and distinct genetic risk factors and that these risk loci mediate effects in cell-specific manners that perturb gene expression and disease risk in unique ways. Aim 1 will test the hypothesis that clinically important asthma sub-phenotypes share a set of genetic risk variants but also have additional, sub- phenotype-specific genetic risk loci. Aim 2 will test the hypothesis that a subset of asthma-risk loci will harbor variation that has unique effects on gene expression in lung tissue resident memory T cells that have not been revealed in other tissues or cell types. Aim 3 will test the hypothesis that asthma sub-phenotypes have different sets of risk loci that influence gene expression in asthma-relevant cells from lungs, specifically T cells, smooth muscle cells and epithelial cells. The goals of this research will be achieved by integrating genome-wide association studies with expression quantitative trait loci identified in airway cells with and without asthma- relevant exposures, and lead to a mechanistic understanding of how genetic risk variants influence cellular responses, ultimately revealing potential therapeutic targets. This career award will accelerate the transition for Dr. Schoettler to an independent physician-scientist and the acquisition of competitive R01 funding.