Kidney Disease

Potassium loss stresses out kidney cells

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Science  12 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6274, pp. 677-678
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6274.677-d

African-Americans are five times more likely than Caucasians to develop advanced kidney disease. Two sequence variants in a gene called APOL1 confer most of this elevated risk. Scientists think that the prevalence of these sequence variants in people of African descent probably arose because they also confer protection against parasite infection. The APOL1 gene encodes the protein apolipoprotein L1, which forms ion pores in the kidney cell membrane, but how the risk variants cause kidney disease remains a mystery. Studying cultured kidney cells, Olabisi et al. find that the APOL1 risk variants cause excessive loss of potassium from the cells. This in turn activates stress-activated enzymes called kinases, which ultimately leads to kidney cell death.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 113, 830 (2016).

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