IgA nephropathy (IgAN), major cause of kidney failure worldwide, is common in Asians, moderately prevalent in Europeans, and rare in Africans. It is not known if these differences represent variation in genes, environment, or ascertainment. In a recent GWAS, we localized five IgAN susceptibility loci on Chr.6p21 (HLA-DQB1/DRB1, PSMB9/TAP1, and DPA1/DPB2 loci), Chr.1q32 (CFHR3/R1 locus), and Chr.22q12 (HORMAD2 locus). These IgAN loci are associated with risk of other immune-mediated disorders such as type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or inflammatory bowel disease. We tested association of these loci in eight new independent cohorts of Asian, European, and African-American ancestry (N = 4,789), followed by meta-analysis with risk-score modeling in 12 cohorts (N = 10,755) and geospatial analysis in 85 world populations. Four susceptibility loci robustly replicated and all five loci were genome-wide significant in the combined cohort (P = 5×10−32–3×10−10), with heterogeneity detected only at the PSMB9/TAP1 locus (I2 = 0.60). Conditional analyses identified two new independent risk alleles within the HLA-DQB1/DRB1 locus, defining multiple risk and protective haplotypes within this interval. We also detected a significant genetic interaction, whereby the odds ratio for the HORMAD2 protective allele was reversed in homozygotes for a CFHR3/R1 deletion (P = 2.5×10−4). A seven–SNP genetic risk score, which explained 4.7% of overall IgAN risk, increased sharply with Eastward and Northward distance from Africa (r = 0.30, P = 3×10−128). This model paralleled the known East–West gradient in disease risk. Moreover, the prediction of a South–North axis was confirmed by registry data showing that the prevalence of IgAN–attributable kidney failure is increased in Northern Europe, similar to multiple sclerosis and type I diabetes. Variation at IgAN susceptibility loci correlates with differences in disease prevalence among world populations. These findings inform genetic, biological, and epidemiological investigations of IgAN and permit cross-comparison with other complex traits that share genetic risk loci and geographic patterns with IgAN.
IgA nephropathy (IgAN) is the most common cause of kidney failure in Asia, has lower prevalence in Europe, and is very infrequent among populations of African ancestry. A long-standing question in the field is whether these differences represent variation in genes, environment, or ascertainment. In a recent genome-wide association study of 5,966 individuals, we identified five susceptibility loci for this trait. In this paper, we study the largest IgAN case-control cohort reported to date, composed of 10,775 individuals of European, Asian, and African-American ancestry. We confirm that all five loci are significant contributors to disease risk across this multi-ethnic cohort. In addition, we identify two novel independent susceptibility alleles within the HLA-DQB1/DRB1 locus and a new genetic interaction between loci on Chr.1p36 and Chr.22q22. We develop a seven–SNP genetic risk score that explains nearly 5% of variation in disease risk. In geospatial analysis of 85 world populations, the genetic risk score closely parallels worldwide patterns of disease prevalence. The genetic risk score also predicts an unsuspected Northward risk gradient in Europe. This genetic prediction is verified by examination of registry data demonstrating, similarly to other immune-mediated diseases such as multiple sclerosis and type I diabetes, a previously unrecognized increase in IgAN–attributable kidney failure in Northern European countries.