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1.  Gene–gene interactions in APOL1-associated nephropathy 
Two APOL1 nephropathy variants confer substantial risk for non-diabetic end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) in African Americans (AAs). Since not all genetically high-risk individuals develop ESKD, modifying factors likely contribute. Forty-two potentially interactive single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from a genome-wide association study in non-diabetic ESKD were tested for interaction with APOL1 to identify genes modifying risk for non-diabetic nephropathy.
SNPs were examined in an expanded sample of 1367 AA non-diabetic ESKD cases and 1504 AA non-nephropathy controls, with validation in an independent family-based cohort containing 608 first-degree relatives of index cases with non-diabetic ESKD. Logistic regression and mixed models were fitted to test for interaction effects with APOL1 on ESKD, estimated kidney function and albuminuria.
Among ESKD samples, 14 of 42 SNPs demonstrated suggestive APOL1 interaction with P-values <0.05. After Bonferroni correction, significant interactions with APOL1 were seen with SNPs in podocin (rs16854341; NPHS2, P = 8.0 × 10−4), in SDCCAG8 (rs2802723; P = 5.0 × 10−4) and near BMP4 (rs8014363; P = 1.0 × 10−3); with trends for ENOX1 (rs9533534; P = 2.2 × 10−3) and near TRIB1 (rs4457349; P = 5.7 × 10−3). The minor allele in NPHS2 markedly changed the APOL1-ESKD association odds ratio (OR) from 7.03 to 1.76 (∼50% reduction in effect per copy of the minor allele), rs2802723 changed the OR from 5.1 to 10.5, and rs8014363 increased the OR from 4.8 to 9.5. NPHS2 (P = 0.05) and SDCCAG8 (P = 0.03) SNPs demonstrated APOL1 interaction with albuminuria in independent family-based samples.
Variants in NPHS2, SDCCAG8 and near BMP4 appear to interact with APOL1 to modulate the risk for non-diabetic ESKD in AAs.
PMCID: PMC3938297  PMID: 24157943
African American; APOL1; bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP4); kidney disease; podocin (NPHS2); serologically defined colon cancer antigen 8 (SDCCAG8)
2.  JC polyoma virus interacts with APOL1 in African Americans with non-diabetic nephropathy 
Kidney international  2013;84(6):10.1038/ki.2013.173.
Individuals with HIV infection and two apolipoprotein L1 gene (APOL1) risk variants frequently develop nephropathy. Here we tested whether non-HIV viral infections influence nephropathy risk via interactions with APOL1 by assessing APOL1 genotypes and presence of urine JC and BK polyoma virus and plasma HHV6 and CMV by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. We analyzed 300 samples from unrelated and related first-degree relatives of African Americans with non-diabetic nephropathy using linear and non-linear mixed models to account for familial relationships. The four groups evaluated were APOL1 0/1 versus 2 risk alleles, with or without nephropathy. Urine JCV and BKV were detected in 90 and 29 patients while HHV6 and CMV were rare. Adjusting for family age at nephropathy, gender and ancestry, presence of JCV genomic DNA in urine and APOL1 risk alleles were significantly negatively associated with elevated serum cystatin C, albuminuria (albumin to creatinine ratio over 30 mg/g), and kidney disease defined as an eGFR under 60 ml/min per 1.73 m2 and/or albuminuria in an additive (APOL1 plus JCV) model. BK viruria was not associated with kidney disease. Thus, African Americans at increased risk for APOL1-associated nephropathy (two APOL1 risk variants) with JC viruria had a lower prevalence of kidney disease, suggesting that JCV interaction with APOL1 genotype may influence kidney disease risk.
PMCID: PMC3844025  PMID: 23677244
APOL1; BK polyomavirus; HIV; JC polyomavirus; kidney disease; proteinuria
4.  Enigmatic pruritus in a kidney transplant patient 
Clinical Kidney Journal  2013;6(2):194-198.
Pruritus is a common problem following a kidney transplant and is usually attributable to new medications related to transplantation. We present an unusual case of pruritus that began several months after kidney transplantation. After changing several immunosuppressive medications, numerous clinical visits and consideration by the patient of stopping immunosuppression, scabies was diagnosed as the cause. Treatment with oral ivermectin and topical permethrin resulted in complete resolution of symptoms within 1 week. Transplant physicians should consider common causes of pruritus unrelated to transplantation; diagnostic skin lesions of scabies may be absent.
PMCID: PMC4432448  PMID: 26019849
pruritus; renal transplant; scabies
5.  Association of APOL1 variants with mild kidney disease in first-degree relatives of African American patients with non-diabetic end stage renal disease 
Kidney international  2012;82(7):805-811.
Familial aggregation of non-diabetic end stage renal disease (ESRD) is found in African Americans and variants in the apolipoprotein L1 gene (APOL1) contribute to this risk. To detect genetic associations with milder forms of nephropathy in high-risk families, analyses were performed using generalized estimating equations to assess relationships between kidney disease phenotypes and APOL1 variants in 786 relatives of 470 families. Adjusting for familial correlations, 23.1, 46.7, and 30.2 percent of genotyped relatives possessed two, one, or no APOL1 risk variants, respectively. Relatives with two compared to one or no risk variants had statistically indistinguishable median systolic blood pressure, urine albumin to creatinine ratio, estimated GFR (MDRD equation) and serum cystatin C levels. After adjusting for age, gender, age at ESRD in families, and African ancestry, significant associations were detected between APOL1 with overt proteinuria and estimated GFR (CKD-EPI equation), with a trend toward significance for quantitative albuminuria. Thus, relatives of African Americans with non-diabetic ESRD are enriched for APOL1 risk variants. After adjustment, two APOL1 risk variants weakly predict mild forms of kidney disease. Second hits appear necessary for the initiation of APOL1-associated nephropathy.
PMCID: PMC3443536  PMID: 22695330
African American; APOL1; end-stage renal disease; FSGS; kidney; screening
6.  An ACACB Variant Implicated in Diabetic Nephropathy Associates with Body Mass Index and Gene Expression in Obese Subjects 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56193.
Acetyl coenzyme A carboxylase B gene (ACACB) single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs2268388 is reproducibly associated with type 2 diabetes (T2DM)-associated nephropathy (DN). ACACB knock-out mice are also protected from obesity. This study assessed relationships between rs2268388, body mass index (BMI) and gene expression in multiple populations, with and without T2DM. Among subjects without T2DM, rs2268388 DN risk allele (T) associated with higher BMI in Pima Indian children (n = 2021; p-additive = 0.029) and African Americans (AAs) (n = 177; p-additive = 0.05), with a trend in European Americans (EAs) (n = 512; p-additive = 0.09), but not Germans (n = 858; p-additive = 0.765). Association with BMI was seen in a meta-analysis including all non-T2DM subjects (n = 3568; p-additive = 0.02). Among subjects with T2DM, rs2268388 was not associated with BMI in Japanese (n = 2912) or EAs (n = 1149); however, the T allele associated with higher BMI in the subset with BMI≥30 kg/m2 (n = 568 EAs; p-additive = 0.049, n = 196 Japanese; p-additive = 0.049). Association with BMI was strengthened in a T2DM meta-analysis that included an additional 756 AAs (p-additive = 0.080) and 48 Hong Kong Chinese (p-additive = 0.81) with BMI≥30 kg/m2 (n = 1575; p-additive = 0.0033). The effect of rs2268388 on gene expression revealed that the T risk allele associated with higher ACACB messenger levels in adipose tissue (41 EAs and 20 AAs with BMI>30 kg/m2; p-additive = 0.018) and ACACB protein levels in the liver tissue (mixed model p-additive = 0.03, in 25 EA bariatric surgery patients with BMI>30 kg/m2 for 75 exams). The T allele also associated with higher hepatic triglyceride levels. These data support a role for ACACB in obesity and potential roles for altered lipid metabolism in susceptibility to DN.
PMCID: PMC3584087  PMID: 23460794
7.  Target Organ Damage in African American Hypertension: Role of APOL1 
Current Hypertension Reports  2012;14(1):21-28.
Apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1) gene association studies and results of the African American Study of Kidney Disease and Hypertension are disproving the longstanding concept that mild to moderate essential hypertension contributes substantially to end-stage renal disease susceptibility in African Americans. APOL1 coding variants underlie a spectrum of kidney diseases, including that attributed to hypertension (labeled arteriolar or hypertensive nephrosclerosis), focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, and HIV-associated nephropathy. APOL1 nephropathy risk variants persist because of protection afforded by the parasite that causes African sleeping sickness. This breakthrough will lead to novel treatments for hypertensive African Americans with low-level proteinuria, for whom effective therapies are lacking. Furthermore, APOL1 nephropathy risk variants contribute to racially variable allograft survival rates after kidney transplantation and assist in detecting nondiabetic forms of nephropathy in African Americans with diabetes. Discovery of APOL1-associated nephropathy was a major success of the genetics revolution, demonstrating that secondary hypertension is typically present in nondiabetic African Americans with nephropathy.
PMCID: PMC3253170  PMID: 22068337
African American; African sleeping sickness; Arteriolar nephrosclerosis; APOL1; Chronic kidney disease; Dialysis; End-stage renal disease; ESRD: Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis; Genetics; Glomerulosclerosis; Hypertension; Hypertensive nephrosclerosis; Kidney disease; Kidney donors; MYH9; Nondiabetic nephropathy; Racial differences; Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense; Transplantation
8.  Relationships between serum MCP-1 and subclinical kidney disease: African American-Diabetes Heart Study 
BMC Nephrology  2012;13:148.
Monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) plays important roles in kidney disease susceptibility and atherogenesis in experimental models. Relationships between serum MCP-1 concentration and early nephropathy and subclinical cardiovascular disease (CVD) were assessed in African Americans (AAs) with type 2 diabetes (T2D).
Serum MCP-1 concentration, urine albumin:creatinine ratio (ACR), estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), and atherosclerotic calcified plaque (CP) in the coronary and carotid arteries and infrarenal aorta were measured in 479 unrelated AAs with T2D. Generalized linear models were fitted to test for associations between MCP-1 and urine ACR, eGFR, and CP.
Participants were 57% female, with mean ± SD (median) age 55.6±9.5 (55.0) years, diabetes duration 10.3±8.2 (8.0) years, urine ACR 149.7±566.7 (14.0) mg/g, CKD-EPI eGFR 92.4±23.3 (92.0) ml/min/1.73m2, MCP-1 262.9±239.1 (224.4) pg/ml, coronary artery CP 280.1±633.8 (13.5), carotid artery CP 47.1±132.9 (0), and aorta CP 1616.0±2864.0 (319.0). Adjusting for age, sex, smoking, HbA1c, BMI, and LDL, serum MCP-1 was positively associated with albuminuria (parameter estimate 0.0021, P=0.04) and negatively associated with eGFR (parameter estimate −0.0003, P=0.001). MCP-1 remained associated with eGFR after adjustment for urine ACR. MCP-1 levels did not correlate with the extent of CP in any vascular bed, HbA1c or diabetes duration, but were positively associated with BMI. No interaction between BMI and MCP-1 was detected on nephropathy outcomes.
Serum MCP-1 levels are associated with eGFR and albuminuria in AAs with T2D. MCP-1 was not associated with subclinical CVD in this population. Inflammation appears to play important roles in development and/or progression of kidney disease in AAs.
PMCID: PMC3534523  PMID: 23151275
African Americans; Albuminuria; Atherosclerotic calcified plaque; Diabetes; GFR; MCP-1
9.  Apolipoprotein L1 nephropathy risk variants associate with HDL subfraction concentration in African Americans 
Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation  2011;26(11):3805-3810.
Background. Coding variants in the apolipoprotein L1 gene (APOL1) are strongly associated with non-diabetic nephropathy in African Americans. ApoL1 proteins associate with high-density lipoprotein (HDL) particles in the circulation. Plasma HDL particle subclass concentrations were compared in 73 African Americans based on APOL1 genotypes to detect differences potentially contributing to renal disease.
Methods. HDL subclass concentrations were measured using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy in African American first-degree relatives of patients with non-diabetic end-stage renal disease. Participants had estimated glomerular filtration rates (GFRs) > 80 mL/min and lacked albuminuria. Additive effects of the number of APOL1 risk variants on natural logarithm-transformed HDL subclass concentrations were computed.
Results. Participants were 58.9% female with mean ± SD age 47.2 ± 13.3 years and GFR 92.4 ± 18.8 mL/min. The numbers with 2, 1 and 0 APOL1 nephropathy risk variants, respectively, were 36, 17 and 20. Mean ± SD medium-sized HDL concentrations were significantly lower for each additional APOL1 risk variant (2 versus 1 versus 0 risk variants: 9.0 ± 5.6 versus 10.1 ± 5.5 versus 13.1 ± 8.2 μmol/L, respectively; P = 0.0222 unadjusted; P = 0.0162 triglyceride- and ancestry adjusted).
Conclusions. Lower medium-sized HDL subclass concentrations are present in African Americans based on increasing numbers of APOL1 nephropathy risk variants. Potential mechanistic roles of altered medium HDL concentrations on APOL1-associated renal microvascular diseases should be evaluated.
PMCID: PMC3203631  PMID: 21931123
APOL1; arteriolar nephrosclerosis; FSGS; HDL cholesterol; kidney
10.  Genome-Wide Association Scan for Survival on Dialysis in African-Americans with Type 2 Diabetes 
American Journal of Nephrology  2011;33(6):502-509.
African-Americans (AAs) with diabetes have high incidence rates of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) with associated high mortality. Genetic factors modulating the risk of mortality on dialysis are poorly understood. Meth ods: A genome-wide association study was performed in 610 AAs with type 2 diabetes (T2D) and ESRD on dialysis, using the Affymetrix 6.0 platform (868,155 SNPs). Time to death was assessed using Cox proportional hazards model adjusting for ancestry and other confounding variables. Cases were censored at kidney transplant or (if living) at study conclusion.
Mean follow-up was 5.4 ± 3.5 years; 434 deaths were recorded. Five SNPs were associated with time to death at p < 1.00 × 10−6: rs2681019 (HR = 2.58, PREC = 8.00 × 10−8), rs815815 in CALM2 (HR = 1.51, PADD = 6.50 × 10−7), rs926392 (HR = 2.37, PREC = 4.80 × 10−7), and rs926391 (HR = 2.30, PREC = 7.30 × 10−7) near DHX35, and rs11128347 in PDZRN3 (HR = 0.57, PADD = 6.00 × 10−7). Other SNPs had nominal associations with time to death (p < 1.00 × 10−5).
Genetic variation may modify the risk of death on dialysis. SNPs in proximity to genes regulating vascular extracellular matrix, cardiac ventricular repolarization, and smoking cessation are associated with dialysis survival in AAs with T2D. These results warrant replication in other cohorts and races.
PMCID: PMC3202959  PMID: 21546767
African-Americans; Diabetes mellitus; Dialysis; Genome-wide association study; Survival
11.  The APOL1 gene and allograft survival after kidney transplantation 
Coding variants in the apolipoprotein L1 gene (APOL1) are strongly associated with nephropathy in African Americans (AAs). The effect of transplanting kidneys from AA donors with two APOL1 nephropathy risk variants is unknown. APOL1 risk variants were genotyped in 106 AA deceased organ donors and graft survival assessed in 136 resultant kidney transplants. Cox proportional-hazard models tested for association between time to graft failure and donor APOL1 genotypes. Mean follow-up was 26.4 ± 21.8 months. Twenty-two of 136 transplanted kidneys (16%) were from donors with two APOL1 nephropathy risk variants. Twenty five grafts failed; eight (32%) had two APOL1 risk variants. A multivariate model accounting for donor APOL1 genotype, overall African ancestry, expanded criteria donation, recipient age and gender, HLA mismatch, CIT, and PRA revealed that graft survival was significantly shorter in donor kidneys with two APOL1 risk variants (hazard ratio [HR] 3.84; p=0.008) and higher HLA mismatch (HR 1.52; p=0.03), but not for overall African ancestry excluding APOL1. Kidneys from AA deceased donors harboring two APOL1 risk variants failed more rapidly after renal transplantation than those with zero or one risk variants. If replicated, APOL1 genotyping could improve the donor selection process and maximize long term renal allograft survival.
PMCID: PMC3083491  PMID: 21486385
African Americans; APOL1; focal segmental glomerulosclerosis; graft survival; kidney donor; kidney transplantation
13.  The Effect of ACACB cis-Variants on Gene Expression and Metabolic Traits 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23860.
Acetyl Coenzyme A carboxylase β (ACACB) is the rate-limiting enzyme in fatty acid oxidation, and continuous fatty acid oxidation in Acacb knock-out mice increases insulin sensitivity. Systematic human studies have not been performed to evaluate whether ACACB variants regulate gene expression and insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle and adipose tissues. We sought to determine whether ACACB transcribed variants were associated with ACACB gene expression and insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic African American (AA) and European American (EA) adults.
ACACB transcribed single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were genotyped in 105 EAs and 46 AAs whose body mass index (BMI), lipid profiles and ACACB gene expression in subcutaneous adipose and skeletal muscle had been measured. Allelic expression imbalance (AEI) was assessed in lymphoblast cell lines from heterozygous subjects in an additional EA sample (n = 95). Selected SNPs were further examined for association with insulin sensitivity in a cohort of 417 EAs and 153 AAs.
ACACB transcribed SNP rs2075260 (A/G) was associated with adipose ACACB messenger RNA expression in EAs and AAs (p = 3.8×10−5, dominant model in meta-analysis, Stouffer method), with the (A) allele representing lower gene expression in adipose and higher insulin sensitivity in EAs (p = 0.04). In EAs, adipose ACACB expression was negatively associated with age and sex-adjusted BMI (r = −0.35, p = 0.0002).
Common variants within the ACACB locus appear to regulate adipose gene expression in humans. Body fat (represented by BMI) may further regulate adipose ACACB gene expression in the EA population.
PMCID: PMC3162605  PMID: 21887335
14.  The Non-Muscle Myosin Heavy Chain 9 Gene (MYH9) Is Not Associated with Lupus Nephritis in African Americans 
American Journal of Nephrology  2010;32(1):66-72.
African Americans (AA) disproportionately develop lupus nephritis (LN) relative to European Americans and familial clustering supports causative genes. Since MYH9 underlies approximately 40% of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in AA, we tested for genetic association with LN.
Seven MYH9 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and the E1 risk haplotype were tested for association with LN in three cohorts of AA.
A preliminary analysis revealed that the MYH9 E1 risk haplotype was associated with ESRD in 25 cases with presumed systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)-associated ESRD, compared to 735 non-SLE controls (odds ratio 3.1; p = 0.010 recessive). Replication analyses were performed in 583 AA with SLE in the PROFILE cohort (318 with LN; 265 with SLE but without nephropathy) and 60 AA from the NIH (39 with LN; 21 with SLE but without nephropathy). Analysis of the NIH and larger PROFILE cohorts, as well as a combined analysis, did not support this association.
These results suggest that AA with ESRD and coincident SLE who were recruited from dialysis clinics more likely have kidney diseases in the MYH9-associated spectrum of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. PROFILE and NIH participants, recruited from rheumatology practices, demonstrate that MYH9 does not contribute substantially to the development of LN in AA.
PMCID: PMC2914393  PMID: 20523037
African Americans; Genetics; Lupus nephritis; Kidney; MYH9; Systemic lupus erythematosus
15.  Potential effects of MYH9-associated nephropathy on dialysis and kidney transplant outcomes 
Seminars in dialysis  2010;23(3):244-247.
Several related disorders comprise the spectrum of non-muscle myosin heavy chain 9-associated (MYH9) nephropathy. The contribution of variants in this single MYH9 gene to ethnic differences in the incidence rates of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) is now clearly established. The importance of recognizing the role of MYH9 in these inherited kidney disorders goes beyond simple disease association; there may well be effects on clinical outcomes in patients on dialysis and after kidney transplantation. MYH9 may adversely affect treatment outcomes in severe kidney disease and such gene effects are rarely encountered in practice.
PMCID: PMC2906610  PMID: 20492585
African American; dialysis; FSGS; kidney disease; MYH9; outcomes; transplantation
16.  Essential hypertension and risk of nephropathy: a reappraisal 
This manuscript reviews the controversial relationship between hypertension and initiation of kidney disease. We focus on ethnic differences in renal histopathology and associated gene variants comprising the spectrum of MYH9-nephropathy.
Purpose of review
Treating mild to moderate essential hypertension in non-diabetic African Americans fails to halt nephropathy progression; while hypertension control slows nephropathy progression in European Americans. The pathogenesis of these disparate renal syndromes is reviewed.
Recent findings
The non-muscle myosin heavy chain 9 gene (MYH9) is associated with a spectrum of kidney diseases in African Americans, including idiopathic focal global glomerulosclerosis historically attributed to hypertension, idiopathic focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, and the collapsing variant of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (HIV-associated nephropathy). Risk variants in MYH9 likely contribute to the failure of hypertension control to slow progressive kidney disease in non-diabetic African Americans.
Early and intensive hypertension control fails to halt progression of “hypertensive nephropathy” in African Americans. Genetic analyses in patients with essential hypertension and nephropathy attributed to hypertension, FSGS and HIVAN reveal that MYH9 gene polymorphisms are associated with a spectrum of kidney diseases in this ethnic group. Mild to moderate hypertension may cause nephropathy in European Americans with intra-renal vascular disease improved by the treatment of hypertension, hyperlipidemia and smoking cessation.
PMCID: PMC2904692  PMID: 20051853
African Americans; CHGA; focal segmental glomerulosclerosis; genetics; hypertensive nephrosclerosis; MYH9
17.  The Pathogenic Role of Notch Activation in Podocytes 
Nephron. Experimental nephrology  2009;111(4):e73-e79.
Podocytes play a key role in the maintenance of glomerular filtration barrier. Depletion or dysregulative mechanisms of podocytes can lead to the development of glomerulosclerosis. Signaling pathways that control these processes in podocytes are not fully understood. Recent studies from our and other laboratories found that genes that belong to the Notch pathway are regulated in patients and in animal models of renal disease. Genetic studies performed on mice with conditional expression of active Notch1 protein showed massive albuminuria, glomerulosclerosis ultimately renal failure and death of the animals. Gamma secretase inhibitors and genetic deletion of Notch transcriptional binding partner (Rbpj) protected animals from nephrotic syndrome. Further studies are needed to define whether the activation of Notch pathway in podocytes represents a common pathomechanism in glomerular injury and its potential to be a therapeutic target for the treatment of chronic kidney disease.
PMCID: PMC2851161  PMID: 19293596
Notch; Podocytes; Glomerulosclerosis; Albuminuria; Gamma secretase inhibitors

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