The Impact of APOL1 on Chronic Kidney Disease and Hypertension

  • Todd W. Robinson
    Department of Internal Medicine, Section on Nephrology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC
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  • Barry I. Freedman
    Address correspondence to Barry I. Freedman, MD, Internal Medicine – Nephrology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Medical Center Blvd, Winston-Salem, NC 27157.
    Department of Internal Medicine, Section on Nephrology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC
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      Essential hypertension is a clinical diagnosis based on the presence of an elevated systemic blood pressure on physical examination without a clear inciting cause. It has multiple etiologies and is not a homogeneous disorder. Hypertension contributes to the development and progression of atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases, and antihypertensive treatment reduces the risk of fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarction, stroke, and congestive heart failure. Although hypertension is frequently present in nondiabetic individuals with low levels of proteinuria and chronic kidney disease, reducing blood pressures in this population does not reliably slow nephropathy progression. Many of these patients with recent African ancestry have the primary kidney disease “solidified glomerulosclerosis” that is strongly associated with renal-risk variants in the apolipoprotein L1 gene (APOL1). This kidney disease contributes to secondarily elevated blood pressures. The APOL1-associated spectrum of nondiabetic nephropathy also includes proteinuric kidney diseases, idiopathic focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, collapsing glomerulopathy, severe lupus nephritis, and sickle cell nephropathy. This article reviews relationships between mild to moderate essential hypertension and chronic kidney disease with a focus on the role of APOL1 in development of hypertension. Available evidence strongly supports that APOL1 renal-risk variants associate with glomerulosclerosis in African Americans, which then causes secondary hypertension, not with essential hypertension per se.

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