The purpose of this study was to examine whether known genetic risk factors for type 1 diabetes (HLA-DRB1, -DQA1, and -DQB1 and insulin locus) play a role in the etiology of diabetic nephropathy.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
Genetic analysis of HLA-DRB1, -DQA1, -DQB1 and the insulin gene (INS) was performed in the Genetics of Kidneys in Diabetes (GoKinD) collection of DNA (European ancestry subset), which includes case patients with type 1 diabetes and nephropathy (n = 829) and control patients with type 1 diabetes but not nephropathy (n = 904). The availability of phenotypic and genotypic data on GoKinD participants allowed a detailed analysis of the association of these genes with diabetic nephropathy.
Diabetic probands who were homozygous for HLA-DRB1*04 were 50% less likely to have nephropathy than probands without any DRB1*04 alleles. In heterozygous carriers, a protective effect of this allele was not as clearly evident; the mode of inheritance therefore remains unclear. This association was seen in probands with both short (<28 years, P = 0.02) and long (≥28 years, P = 0.0001) duration of diabetes. A1C, a marker of sustained hyperglycemia, was increased in control probands with normoalbuminuira, despite long-duration diabetes, from 7.2 to 7.3 to 7.7% with 0, 1, and 2 copies of the DRB1*04 allele, respectively. This result is consistent with a protective effect of DRB1*04 that may allow individuals to tolerate higher levels of hyperglycemia, as measured by A1C, without developing nephropathy.
These data suggest that carriers of DRB1*04 are protected from some of the injurious hyperglycemic effects related to nephropathy. Interestingly, DRB1*04 appears to be both a risk allele for type 1 diabetes and a protective allele for nephropathy.