Genetic variation in nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit genes (nAChRs) is associated with lung function level and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is unknown whether these variants also predispose to an accelerated lung function decline. We investigated the association of nAChR susceptibility variants with lung function decline and COPD severity. The rs1051730 and rs8034191 variants were genotyped in a population-based cohort of 1,226 heavy smokers (COPACETIC) and in an independent cohort of 883 heavy smokers, of which 653 with COPD of varying severity (LEUVEN). Participants underwent pulmonary function tests at baseline. Lung function decline was assessed over a median follow-up of 3 years in COPACETIC. Current smokers homozygous for the rs1051730 A-allele or rs8034191 G-allele had significantly greater FEV1/FVC decline than homozygous carriers of wild-type alleles (3.3% and 4.3%, p = 0.026 and p = 0.009, respectively). In the LEUVEN cohort, rs1051730 AA-carriers and rs8034191 GG-carriers had a two-fold increased risk to suffer from COPD GOLD IV (OR 2.29, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.11-4.75; p = 0.025 and OR = 2.42, 95% [CI] = 1.18-4.95; p = 0.016, respectively). The same risk alleles conferred, respectively, a five-and four-fold increased risk to be referred for lung transplantation because of end-stage COPD (OR = 5.0, 95% [CI] = 1.68-14.89; p = 0.004 and OR = 4.06, 95% [CI] = 1.39-11.88; p = 0.010). In Europeans, variants in nAChRs associate with an accelerated lung function decline in current smokers and with clinically relevant COPD
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