Background: Previous studies have identified genetic variants associated with bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in extremely preterm infants. However, findings with genome-wide significance have been rare, and not replicated. We hypothesized that whole exome sequencing (WES) of premature subjects with extremely divergent phenotypic outcomes could facilitate the identification of genetic variants or gene networks contributing disease risk. Results: The Prematurity and Respiratory Outcomes Program (PROP) recruited a cohort of > 765 extremely preterm infants for the identification of markers of respiratory morbidity. We completed WES on 146 PROP subjects (85 affected, 61 unaffected) representing extreme phenotypes of early respiratory morbidity. We tested for association between disease status and individual common variants, screened for rare variants exclusive to either affected or unaffected subjects, and tested the combined association of variants across gene loci. Pathway analysis was performed and disease-related expression patterns were assessed. Marginal association with BPD was observed for numerous common and rare variants. We identified 345 genes with variants unique to BPD-affected preterm subjects, and 292 genes with variants unique to our unaffected preterm subjects. Of these unique variants, 28 (19 in the affected cohort and 9 in unaffected cohort) replicate a prior WES study of BPD-associated variants. Pathway analysis of sets of variants, informed by disease-related gene expression, implicated protein kinase A, MAPK and Neuregulin/epidermal growth factor receptor signaling. Conclusions: We identified novel genes and associated pathways that may play an important role in susceptibility/resilience for the development of lung disease in preterm infants.
- Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)
- Prematurity and respiratory outcomes program (PROP)