PLoS One. 2022 Oct 24;17(10):e0276649. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0276649. eCollection 2022.
BACKGROUND: Genetic variants in apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1), a protein that protects humans from infection with African trypanosomes, explain a substantial proportion of the excess risk of chronic kidney disease affecting individuals with sub-Saharan ancestry. The mechanisms by which risk variants damage kidney cells remain incompletely understood. In preclinical models, APOL1 expressed in podocytes can lead to significant kidney injury. In humans, studies in kidney transplant suggest that the effects of APOL1 variants are predominantly driven by donor genotype. Less attention has been paid to a possible role for circulating APOL1 in kidney injury.
METHODS: Using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, the concentrations of APOL1 were measured in plasma and urine from participants in the Seattle Kidney Study. Asymmetric flow field-flow fractionation was used to evaluate the size of APOL1-containing lipoprotein particles in plasma. Transgenic mice that express wild-type or risk variant APOL1 from an albumin promoter were treated to cause kidney injury and evaluated for renal disease and pathology.
RESULTS: In human participants, urine concentrations of APOL1 were correlated with plasma concentrations and reduced kidney function. Risk variant APOL1 was enriched in larger particles. In mice, circulating risk variant APOL1-G1 promoted kidney damage and reduced podocyte density without renal expression of APOL1.
CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that plasma APOL1 is dynamic and contributes to the progression of kidney disease in humans, which may have implications for treatment of APOL1-associated kidney disease and for kidney transplantation.