Genetic variation in MYH9, encoding nonmuscle myosin IIA heavy chain, has been associated recently with increased risk for kidney disease. Previously, MYH9 missense mutations have been shown to cause the autosomal-dominant MYH9 (ADM9) spectrum, characterized by large platelets, leukocyte Döhle bodies, and, variably, sensorineural deafness, cataracts, and glomerulopathy. Genetic testing is indicated for familial and sporadic cases that fit this spectrum. By contrast, the MYH9 kidney risk variant is characterized by multiple intronic single nucleotide polymorphisms, but the causative variant has not been identified. Disease associations include human immunodeficiency virus-associated collapsing glomerulopathy, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, hypertension-attributed end-stage kidney disease, and diabetes-attributed end-stage kidney disease. One plausible hypothesis is that the MYH9 kidney risk variant confers a fragile podocyte phenotype. In the case of hypertension-attributed kidney disease, it remains unclear if the hypertension is a contributing cause or a consequence of glomerular injury. The MYH9 kidney risk variant is strikingly more common among individuals of African descent, but only some will develop clinical kidney disease in their lifetime. Thus, it is likely that additional genes and/or environmental factors interact with the MYH9 kidney risk variant to trigger glomerular injury. A preliminary genetic risk stratification scheme, using two single nucleotide polymorphisms, may estimate lifetime risk for kidney disease. Nevertheless, at present, no role has been established for genetic testing as part of personalized medicine, but testing should be considered in clinical studies of glomerular diseases among populations of African descent. Such studies will address critical questions pertaining to MYH9-associated kidney disease, including mechanism, course, and response to therapy.
Published by Elsevier Inc.