Background: Cigarette smoking negatively affects kidney function. Genetic variants in the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) genes have been associated with nicotine dependence, and are likely to influence renal function and related traits. Whereas each single variant may only exert a small effect, the joint contribution of multiple variants to the risk of disease could be substantial.
Methods: Using a gene-family approach, we investigated the joint association of 61 tagging SNPs in seven genes encoding the nAChRs with kidney function in 3620 American Indians participating in the Strong Heart Family Study, independent of known risk factors. Kidney function was evaluated by estimated glomerular filtration rate, urinary albumin/creatinine ratio, albuminuria and chronic kidney disease. The joint impact of smoking-related variants was assessed using the weighted truncated product method.
Results: Multiple SNPs showed marginal individual effect on renal function variability, and only a few survive multiple comparison correction. In contrast, a gene-family analysis considering the joint impact of all 61 SNPs reveals significant associations of the nAChR gene family with kidney function variables including estimated glomerular filtration rate, urinary albumin/creatinine ratio, and albuminuria (all Ps ≤ 0.0001) after adjusting for established risk factors including cigarette smoking.
Conclusion: Genetic variants in nAChR genes jointly contribute to renal function or kidney damage in American Indians. The effects of these genetic variants on kidney function or damage are independent of traditional risk factors including cigarette smoking per se.