Large-Scale Whole-Genome Sequencing Reveals the Genetic Architecture of Primary Membranoproliferative GN and C3 Glomerulopathy

Adam P Levine, Melanie M Y Chan, Omid Sadeghi-Alavijeh, Edwin K S Wong, H Terence Cook, Sofie Ashford, Keren Carss, Martin T Christian, Matthew Hall, Claire Louise Harris, Paul McAlinden, Kevin J Marchbank, Stephen D Marks, Heather Maxwell, Karyn Megy, Christopher J Penkett, Monika Mozere, Kathleen E Stirrups, Salih Tuna, Julie Wessels, Deborah Whitehorn, Sally A Johnson, Daniel P Gale
Journal of the American Society of Nephrology: JASN 2020, 31 (2): 365-373

BACKGROUND: Primary membranoproliferative GN, including complement 3 (C3) glomerulopathy, is a rare, untreatable kidney disease characterized by glomerular complement deposition. Complement gene mutations can cause familial C3 glomerulopathy, and studies have reported rare variants in complement genes in nonfamilial primary membranoproliferative GN.

METHODS: We analyzed whole-genome sequence data from 165 primary membranoproliferative GN cases and 10,250 individuals without the condition (controls) as part of the National Institutes of Health Research BioResource-Rare Diseases Study. We examined copy number, rare, and common variants.

RESULTS: Our analysis included 146 primary membranoproliferative GN cases and 6442 controls who were unrelated and of European ancestry. We observed no significant enrichment of rare variants in candidate genes (genes encoding components of the complement alternative pathway and other genes associated with the related disease atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome; 6.8% in cases versus 5.9% in controls) or exome-wide. However, a significant common variant locus was identified at 6p21.32 (rs35406322) ( P =3.29×10-8 ; odds ratio [OR], 1.93; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 1.53 to 2.44), overlapping the HLA locus. Imputation of HLA types mapped this signal to a haplotype incorporating DQA1*05:01, DQB1*02:01, and DRB1*03:01 ( P =1.21×10-8 ; OR, 2.19; 95% CI, 1.66 to 2.89). This finding was replicated by analysis of HLA serotypes in 338 individuals with membranoproliferative GN and 15,614 individuals with nonimmune renal failure.

CONCLUSIONS: We found that HLA type, but not rare complement gene variation, is associated with primary membranoproliferative GN. These findings challenge the paradigm of complement gene mutations typically causing primary membranoproliferative GN and implicate an underlying autoimmune mechanism in most cases.

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