Excretion of albumin in urine, or albuminuria, is associated with the development of multiple cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. However, whether pathways leading to albuminuria are causal for cardiometabolic diseases is unclear. We addressed this question using a Mendelian randomization framework in the UK Biobank, a large population-based cohort. We first performed a genome-wide association study for albuminuria in 382,500 individuals and identified 32 new albuminuria loci. We constructed albuminuria genetic risk scores and tested for association with cardiometabolic diseases. Genetically elevated albuminuria was strongly associated with increased risk of hypertension (1.38 OR; 95% CI, 1.27-1.50 per 1 SD predicted increase in albuminuria, p = 7.01 × 10-14). We then examined bidirectional associations of albuminuria with blood pressure which suggested that genetically elevated albuminuria led to higher blood pressure (2.16 mmHg systolic blood pressure; 95% CI, 1.51-2.82 per 1 SD predicted increase in albuminuria, p = 1.22 × 10-10) and that genetically elevated blood pressure led to more albuminuria (0.005 SD; 95% CI 0.004-0.006 per 1 mmHg predicted increase in systolic blood pressure, p = 2.45 × 10-13). These results support the existence of a feed-forward loop between albuminuria and blood pressure and imply that albuminuria could increase risk of cardiovascular disease through blood pressure. Moreover, they suggest therapies that target albuminuria-increasing processes could have antihypertensive effects that are amplified through inhibition of this feed-forward loop.
Keywords: Mendelian randomization; albuminuria; blood pressure; cardiometabolic disease; cardiovascular disease; genetic risk score; genome-wide association study; hypertension; polygenic risk score; urine albumin excretion; urine albumin:creatinine ratio.
Copyright © 2018. Published by Elsevier Inc.