Gene–Toxicant Interactions in Gulf War Illness: Differential Effects of the PON1 Genotype

Jacqueline Vahey, Elizabeth J. Gifford, Kellie J. Sims, Blair Chesnut, Stephen H. Boyle, Crystal Stafford, Julie Upchurch, Annjanette Stone, Saiju Pyarajan, Jimmy T. Efird, Christina D. Williams, Elizabeth R. Hauser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


About 25–35% of United States veterans who fought in the 1990–1991 Gulf War report several moderate or severe chronic systemic symptoms, defined as Gulf War illness (GWI). Thirty years later, there is little consensus on the causes or biological underpinnings of GWI. The Gulf War Era Cohort and Biorepository (GWECB) was designed to investigate genetic and environmental associations with GWI and consists of 1343 veterans. We investigate candidate gene–toxicant interactions that may be associated with GWI based on prior associations found in human and animal model studies, focusing on SNPs in or near ACHE, BCHE, and PON1 genes to replicate results from prior studies. SOD1 was also considered as a candidate gene. CDC Severe GWI, the primary outcome, was observed in 26% of the 810 deployed veterans included in this study. The interaction between the candidate SNP rs662 and pyridostigmine bromide (PB) pills was found to be associated with CDC Severe GWI. Interactions between PB pill exposure and rs3917545, rs3917550, and rs2299255, all in high linkage disequilibrium in PON1, were also associated with respiratory symptoms. These SNPs could point toward biological pathways through which GWI may develop, which could lead to biomarkers to detect GWI or to better treatment options for veterans with GWI.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1558
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • GWI
  • Gene– environment interactions
  • Gulf War illness
  • PON1
  • Pesticides
  • Pyridostigmine bromide
  • Veteran health


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