Apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1)-associated focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) is the dominant form of FSGS in Black individuals. There are no targeted therapies for this condition, in part because the molecular mechanisms underlying APOL1's pathogenic contribution to FSGS are incompletely understood. Studying the transcriptomic landscape of APOL1 FSGS in patient kidneys is an important way to discover genes and molecular behaviors that are unique or most relevant to the human disease. With the hypothesis that the pathology driven by the high-risk APOL1 genotype is reflected in alteration of gene expression across the glomerular transcriptome, we compared expression and co-expression profiles of 15,703 genes in 16 Black patients with FSGS at high-risk vs 14 Black patients with a low-risk APOL1 genotype. Expression data from APOL1-inducible HEK293 cells and normal human glomeruli were used to pursue genes and molecular pathways uncovered in these studies. We discovered increased expression of APOL1 and nine other significant differentially expressed genes in high-risk patients. This included stanniocalcin, which has a role in mitochondrial and calcium-related processes along with differential correlations between high- and low-risk APOL1 and metabolism pathway genes. There were similar correlations with extracellular matrix- and immune-related genes, but significant loss of co-expression of mitochondrial genes in high-risk FSGS, and an NF-κB-down regulating gene, NKIRAS1, as the most significant hub gene with strong differential correlations with NDUF family (mitochondrial respiratory genes) and immune-related (JAK-STAT) genes. Thus, differences in mitochondrial gene regulation appear to underlie many differences observed between high- and low-risk Black patients with FSGS.
Keywords: focal segmental glomerular sclerosis; gene expression; glomerulus; mitochondria; nephrotic syndrome.
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