Apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1) risk alleles in donor kidneys associate with graft loss, but whether recipient risk allele expression affects transplant outcomes is unclear. To test whether recipient APOL1 risk alleles independently correlate with transplant outcomes, we analyzed genome-wide SNP genotyping data on donors and recipients from 2 kidney transplant cohorts: Genomics of Chronic Allograft Rejection (GOCAR) and Clinical Trials in Organ Transplantation 01/17 (CTOT-01/17). We estimated genetic ancestry (quantified as the proportion of African ancestry, or pAFR) by ADMIXTURE and correlated APOL1 genotypes and pAFR with outcomes. In the GOCAR discovery set, we noted that the number of recipient APOL1 G1/G2 alleles (R-nAPOL1) associated with an increased risk of death-censored allograft loss (DCAL), independent of ancestry (HR = 2.14; P = 0.006), as well as within the subgroup of African American and Hispanic (AA/H) recipients (HR = 2.36; P = 0.003). R-nAPOL1 also associated with an increased risk of any T cell–mediated rejection (TCMR) event. These associations were validated in CTOT-01/17. Ex vivo studies of PMBCs revealed, unexpectedly, high expression levels of APOL1 in activated CD4+/CD8+ T cells and NK cells. We detected enriched immune response gene pathways in risk allele carriers compared with noncarriers on the kidney transplant waitlist and among healthy controls. Our findings demonstrate an immunomodulatory role for recipient APOL1 risk alleles associated with TCMR and DCAL. We believe this finding has broader implications for immune-mediated injury to native kidneys.
Zhongyang Zhang, Zeguo Sun, Jia Fu, Qisheng Lin, Khadija Banu, Kinsuk Chauhan, Marina Planoutene, Chengguo Wei, Fadi Salem, Zhengzi Yi, Ruijie Liu, Paolo Cravedi, Haoxiang Cheng, Ke Hao, Philip J. O’Connell, Shuta Ishibe, Weijia Zhang, Steven G. Coca, Ian W. Gibson, Robert B. Colvin, John Cijiang He, Peter S. Heeger, Barbara Murphy, Madhav C. Menon