Rare genetic causes of complex kidney and urological diseases

Nat Rev Nephrol. 2020 Nov;16(11):641-656. doi: 10.1038/s41581-020-0325-2. Epub 2020 Aug 17.


Although often considered a single-entity, chronic kidney disease (CKD) comprises many pathophysiologically distinct disorders that result in persistently abnormal kidney structure and/or function, and encompass both monogenic and polygenic aetiologies. Rare inherited forms of CKD frequently span diverse phenotypes, reflecting genetic phenomena including pleiotropy, incomplete penetrance and variable expressivity. Use of chromosomal microarray and massively parallel sequencing technologies has revealed that genomic disorders and monogenic aetiologies contribute meaningfully to seemingly complex forms of CKD across different clinically defined subgroups and are characterized by high genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity. Investigations of prevalent genomic disorders in CKD have integrated genetic, bioinformatic and functional studies to pinpoint the genetic drivers underlying their renal and extra-renal manifestations, revealing both monogenic and polygenic mechanisms. Similarly, massively parallel sequencing-based analyses have identified gene- and allele-level variation that contribute to the clinically diverse phenotypes observed for many monogenic forms of nephropathy. Genome-wide sequencing studies suggest that dual genetic diagnoses are found in at least 5% of patients in whom a genetic cause of disease is identified, highlighting the fact that complex phenotypes can also arise from multilocus variation. A multifaceted approach that incorporates genetic and phenotypic data from large, diverse cohorts will help to elucidate the complex relationships between genotype and phenotype for different forms of CKD, supporting personalized medicine for individuals with kidney disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Genotype
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Precision Medicine*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / genetics*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / therapy*
  • Urologic Diseases / genetics*
  • Urologic Diseases / therapy*