Background: Autosomal-dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is characterized by intrafamilial variability in renal disease progression, which could result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Although a role for modifier genes has been evidenced in mouse models, direct evidence in ADPKD patients is lacking. The analysis of variability in affected siblings and monozygotic (MZ) twins would help evaluate the relative contribution of environment and genetic factors on renal disease progression in ADPKD.
Methods: The difference in the age at end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) were quantified in a large series of ADPKD siblings from western Europe and compared with the values obtained in a series of MZ ADPKD twins from the same geographic area.
Results: Fifty-six sibships (including 129 patients) and nine pairs of MZ twins were included. The difference in the age at ESRD was significantly higher in siblings (6.9 +/- 6.0 years, range 2 months to 23 years) than in MZ twins (2.1 +/- 1.9 years, range 1 month to 6 years; P = 0.02). Furthermore, the intraclass correlation coefficient was significantly lower in siblings than in MZ twins (0.49 vs. 0.92, respectively; P = 0.003). The intrafamilial difference in the age at ESRD was not influenced by gender.
Conclusion: These data substantiate the existence of a large intrafamilial variability in renal disease progression in ADPKD siblings. The fact that the variability in siblings is in a significant excess of that found in MZ twins strongly suggests that modifier genes account for a significant part of this variability.