Asthma affects nearly 14 million people worldwide and has been steadily increasing in frequency for the past 50 years. Although environmental factors clearly influence the onset, progression, and severity of this disease, family and twin studies indicate that genetic variation also influences susceptibility. Linkage of asthma and related phenotypes to chromosome 6p21 has been reported in seven genome screens, making it the most replicated region of the genome. However, because many genes with individually small effects are likely to contribute to risk, identification of asthma susceptibility loci has been challenging. In this study, we present evidence from four independent samples in support of HLA-G as a novel asthma and bronchial hyperresponsiveness susceptibility gene in the human leukocyte antigen region on chromosome 6p21, and we speculate that this gene might contribute to risk for other inflammatory diseases that show linkage to this region.
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