Trypanolytic variants in APOL1, which encodes apolipoprotein L1, associate with kidney disease in African Americans, but whether APOL1-associated glomerular disease has a distinct clinical phenotype is unknown. Here we determined APOL1 genotypes for 271 African American cases, 168 European American cases, and 939 control subjects. In a recessive model, APOL1 variants conferred seventeen-fold higher odds (95% CI 11 to 26) for focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) and twenty-ninefold higher odds (95% CI 13 to 68) for HIV-associated nephropathy (HIVAN). FSGS associated with two APOL1 risk alleles associated with earlier age of onset (P = 0.01) and faster progression to ESRD (P < 0.01) but similar sensitivity to steroids compared with other subjects. Individuals with two APOL1 risk alleles have an estimated 4% lifetime risk for developing FSGS, and untreated HIV-infected individuals have a 50% risk for developing HIVAN. The effect of carrying two APOL1 risk alleles explains 18% of FSGS and 35% of HIVAN; alternatively, eliminating this effect would reduce FSGS and HIVAN by 67%. A survey of world populations indicated that the APOL1 kidney risk alleles are present only on African chromosomes. In summary, African Americans carrying two APOL1 risk alleles have a greatly increased risk for glomerular disease, and APOL1-associated FSGS occurs earlier and progresses to ESRD more rapidly. These data add to the evidence base required to determine whether genetic testing for APOL1 has a use in clinical practice.
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