APOL1 and kidney cell function

Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2019 Aug 1;317(2):F463-F477. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00233.2019. Epub 2019 Jun 26.


The apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1) gene is unique to humans and gorillas and appeared ~33 million years ago. Since the majority of the mammals do not carry APOL1, it seems to be dispensable for kidney function. APOL1 renal risk variants (RRVs; G1 and G2) are associated with the development as well as progression of chronic kidney diseases (CKDs) at higher rates in populations with African ancestry. Cellular expression of two APOL1 RRVs has been demonstrated to induce cytotoxicity, including necrosis, apoptosis, and pyroptosis, in several cell types including podocytes; mechanistically, these toxicities were attributed to lysosomal swelling, K+ depletion, mitochondrial dysfunction, autophagy blockade, protein kinase receptor activation, ubiquitin D degradation, and endoplasmic reticulum stress; notably, these effects were found to be dose dependent and occurred only in overtly APOL1 RRV-expressing cells. However, cellular protein expressions as well as circulating blood levels of APOL1 RRVs were not elevated in patients suffering from APOL1 RRV-associated CKDs. Therefore, the question arises as to whether it is gain or loss of function on the part of APOL1 RRVs contributing to kidney cell injury. The question seems to be more pertinent after the recognition of the role of APOL1 nonrisk (G0) in the transition of parietal epithelial cells and preservation of the podocyte molecular phenotype through modulation of the APOL1-miR-193a axis. With this background, the present review analyzed the available literature in terms of the known function of APOL1 nonrisk and how the loss of these functions could have contributed to two APOL1 RRV-associated CKDs.

Keywords: apolipoprotein L1; chronic kidney disease; focal segmental glomerulosclerosis; human immunodeficiency virus-associated nephropathy; podocyte.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apolipoprotein L1 / genetics*
  • Apolipoprotein L1 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Kidney / cytology
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney / physiology*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / genetics
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / physiopathology


  • APOL1 protein, human
  • Apolipoprotein L1