Although studies show that diabetic kidney disease has a heritable component, searches for the genetic determinants of this complication of diabetes have had limited success. In this study, a new international genomics consortium, the JDRF funded Diabetic Nephropathy Collaborative Research Initiative, assembled nearly 20,000 samples from participants with type 1 diabetes, with and without kidney disease. The authors found 16 new diabetic kidney disease–associated loci at genome-wide significance. The strongest signal centers on a protective missense coding variant at
COL4A3, a gene that encodes a component of the glomerular basement membrane that, when mutated, causes the progressive inherited nephropathy Alport syndrome. These GWAS-identified risk loci may provide insights into the pathogenesis of diabetic kidney disease and help identify potential biologic targets for prevention and treatment. Background
Although diabetic kidney disease demonstrates both familial clustering and single nucleotide polymorphism heritability, the specific genetic factors influencing risk remain largely unknown.
To identify genetic variants predisposing to diabetic kidney disease, we performed genome-wide association study (GWAS) analyses. Through collaboration with the Diabetes Nephropathy Collaborative Research Initiative, we assembled a large collection of type 1 diabetes cohorts with harmonized diabetic kidney disease phenotypes. We used a spectrum of ten diabetic kidney disease definitions based on albuminuria and renal function.
Our GWAS meta-analysis included association results for up to 19,406 individuals of European descent with type 1 diabetes. We identified 16 genome-wide significant risk loci. The variant with the strongest association (rs55703767) is a common missense mutation in the collagen type IV alpha 3 chain (
COL4A3)gene, which encodes a major structural component of the glomerular basement membrane (GBM). Mutations in COL4A3are implicated in heritable nephropathies, including the progressive inherited nephropathy Alport syndrome. The rs55703767 minor allele (Asp326Tyr) is protective against several definitions of diabetic kidney disease, including albuminuria and ESKD, and demonstrated a significant association with GBM width; protective allele carriers had thinner GBM before any signs of kidney disease, and its effect was dependent on glycemia. Three other loci are in or near genes with known or suggestive involvement in this condition ( BMP7)or renal biology ( COLEC11and DDR1). Conclusions
The 16 diabetic kidney disease–associated loci may provide novel insights into the pathogenesis of this condition and help identify potential biologic targets for prevention and treatment.