Many environmental risk factors for common, complex human diseases have been revealed by epidemiologic studies, but how genotypes at specific loci modulate individual responses to environmental risk factors is largely unknown. Gene-environment interactions will be missed in genome-wide association studies and could account for some of the 'missing heritability' for these diseases. In this review, we focus on asthma as a model disease for studying gene-environment interactions because of relatively large numbers of candidate gene-environment interactions with asthma risk in the literature. Identifying these interactions using genome-wide approaches poses formidable methodological problems, and elucidating molecular mechanisms for these interactions has been challenging. We suggest that studying gene-environment interactions in animal models, although more tractable, might not be sufficient to shed light on the genetic architecture of human diseases. Lastly, we propose avenues for future studies to find gene-environment interactions.
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