RATIONALE: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified loci influencing lung function, but fewer genes influencing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are known. OBJECTIVES: Perform meta-analyses of GWAS for airflow obstruction, a key pathophysiologic characteristic of COPD assessed by spirometry, in population-based cohorts examining all participants, ever smokers, never smokers, asthma free participants, and more severe cases. METHODS: Fifteen cohorts were studied for discovery (3,368 affected; 29,507 unaffected), and a population-based family study and a meta-analysis of case-control studies were used for replication and regional follow-up (3,837 cases; 4,479 controls). Airflow obstruction was defined as forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV(1)) and its ratio to forced vital capacity (FEV(1)/FVC) both less than their respective lower limits of normal as determined by published reference equations. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: The discovery meta-analyses identified one region on chromosome 15q25.1 meeting genome-wide significance in ever smokers that includes AGPHD1, IREB2, and CHRNA5/CHRNA3 genes. The region was also modestly associated among never smokers. Gene expression studies confirmed the presence of CHRNA5/3 in lung, airway smooth muscle, and bronchial epithelial cells. A SNP in HTR4, a gene previously related to FEV(1)/FVC, achieved genome-wide statistical significance in combined meta-analysis. Top SNPs in ADAM19, RARB, PPAP2B, and ADAMTS19 were nominally replicated in the COPD meta-analysis. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest an important role for the CHRNA5/3 region as a genetic risk factor for airflow obstruction that may be independent of smoking and implicate the HTR4 gene in the etiology of airflow obstruction.