Practical genetics for autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease

Nephron Clin Pract. 2011;118(1):c19-30. doi: 10.1159/000320887. Epub 2010 Nov 11.


Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is the most common mendelian disorder of the kidney and accounts for ~5% of end-stage renal disease in North America. It is characterized by focal development of renal cysts which increase in number and size with age. Mutations of PKD1 and PKD2 account for most cases. Although the clinical manifestations of both gene types overlap completely, PKD1 is associated with more severe disease than PKD2, with larger kidneys and earlier onset of end-stage renal disease. Furthermore, marked within-family renal disease variability is well documented in ADPKD and suggests a strong modifier effect from as yet unknown genetic and environmental factors. In turn, the significant inter- and intra-familial renal disease variability poses a challenge for diagnosis and genetic counseling. In general, renal ultrasonography is commonly used for the diagnosis, and age-dependent criteria have been defined for subjects at risk of PKD1. However, the utility of the PKD1 ultrasound criteria in the clinical setting is unclear since their performance characteristics have not been defined for the milder PKD2 and the gene type for most test subjects is unknown. Recently, highly predictive ultrasound diagnostic criteria have been derived for at-risk subjects of unknown gene type. Additionally, both DNA linkage and gene-based direct sequencing are available for the diagnosis of ADPKD, especially in subjects with equivocal imaging results, a negative or indeterminate family history, or in younger at-risk individuals being evaluated as potential living related kidney donor. This review will highlight the utility and limitations of clinical predictors of gene types, imaging- and molecular-based diagnostic tests, and present an integrated approach for evaluating individuals suspected to have ADPKD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Forecasting*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Genetic Testing / methods*
  • Humans
  • Polycystic Kidney, Autosomal Dominant / diagnosis*
  • Polycystic Kidney, Autosomal Dominant / genetics*
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics*


  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases