Pathway discovery using transcriptomic profiles in adult-onset severe asthma

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Abstract

Background:

Adult-onset severe asthma is characterized by highly symptomatic disease despite high-intensity asthma treatments. Understanding of the underlying pathways of this heterogeneous disease is needed for the development of targeted treatments. Gene set variation analysis is a statistical technique used to identify gene profiles in heterogeneous samples.

Objective:

We sought to identify gene profiles associated with adult-onset severe asthma.

Methods:

This was a cross-sectional, observational study in which adult patients with adult-onset of asthma (defined as starting at age ≥18 years) as compared with childhood-onset severe asthma (<18 years) were selected from the U-BIOPRED cohort. Gene expression was assessed on the total RNA of induced sputum (n = 83), nasal brushings (n = 41), and endobronchial brushings (n = 65) and biopsies (n = 47) (Affymetrix HT HG-U133+ PM). Gene set variation analysis was used to identify differentially enriched predefined gene signatures of leukocyte lineage, inflammatory and induced lung injury pathways.

Results:

Significant differentially enriched gene signatures in patients with adult-onset as compared with childhood-onset severe asthma were identified in nasal brushings (5 signatures), sputum (3 signatures), and endobronchial brushings (6 signatures). Signatures associated with eosinophilic airway inflammation, mast cells, and group 3 innate lymphoid cells were more enriched in adult-onset severe asthma, whereas signatures associated with induced lung injury were less enriched in adult-onset severe asthma.

Conclusions:

Adult-onset severe asthma is characterized by inflammatory pathways involving eosinophils, mast cells, and group 3 innate lymphoid cells. These pathways could represent useful targets for the treatment of adult-onset severe asthma.

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