Practical Considerations for APOL1 Genotyping in the Living Kidney Donor Evaluation

Transplantation. 2020 Jan;104(1):27-32. doi: 10.1097/TP.0000000000002933.


Background: Association between the apolipoprotein L1 gene (APOL1) and nephropathy has altered the epidemiology of chronic kidney disease. In addition, donor APOL1 genotypes play important roles in the time to allograft failure in kidneys transplanted from deceased donors and the safety of living kidney donation.

Methods: This article reviews genetic testing for inherited kidney disease in living kidney donors to improve donor safety. APOL1 genotyping in donors with recent African ancestry is considered.

Results: Based on current data, transplant physicians should discuss APOL1 genotyping with potential living kidney donors self-reporting recent African ancestry. Until results from APOL1 Long-term Kidney Transplant Outcomes Network ancillary studies are available, we present practical approaches from our experience for considering APOL1 genotyping in the living donor evaluation.

Conclusions: Transplant physicians should inform potential living kidney donors at risk for APOL1-associated nephropathy about the gene and possibility of genetic testing early in the donor evaluation, well before scheduling the donor nephrectomy. Transplant programs must weigh risks of performing a donor nephrectomy in those with 2 APOL1 renal risk variants (high-risk genotypes), particularly younger individuals. Our program counsels kidney donors with APOL1 high-risk genotypes in the same fashion as with risk genotypes in other nephropathy genes. Because most African American kidney donor candidates lacking hypertension, proteinuria and reduced kidney function after workup will not possess APOL1 high-risk genotypes, genetic testing is unlikely to markedly increase donor declines and may reassure donors with regard to their long-term kidney outcomes, potentially increasing the number of African American donors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • African Continental Ancestry Group / genetics
  • Apolipoprotein L1 / genetics*
  • Donor Selection / standards*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Testing / standards*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation / standards
  • Living Donors*
  • Nephrectomy / adverse effects
  • Patient Safety
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / congenital
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / diagnosis*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting / adverse effects
  • Transplantation, Homologous / standards


  • APOL1 protein, human
  • Apolipoprotein L1