<p>Several infrequent genetic polymorphisms in the SERPINA1 gene are known to substantially reduce concentration of alpha1-antitrypsin (AAT) in the blood. Since low AAT serum levels fail to protect pulmonary tissue from enzymatic degradation these polymorphisms also increase the risk for early onset chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The role of more common SERPINA1 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in respiratory health remains poorly understood. We present here an agnostic investigation of genetic determinants of circulating AAT levels in a general population sample by performing a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 1392 individuals of the SAPALDIA cohort. Five common SNPs defined by showing minor allele frequencies (MAFs) >5% reached genome-wide significance all located in the SERPINA gene cluster at 14q32.13. The top-ranking genotyped SNP rs4905179 was associated with an estimated effect of beta = 20.068 g/L per minor allele (P = 1.20*10(-12)). But denser SERPINA1 locus genotyping in 5569 participants with subsequent stepwise conditional analysis as well as exon-sequencing in a subsample (N = 410) suggested that AAT serum level is causally determined at this locus by rare (MAF</p>
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