Mendelian randomization to assess causality between uromodulin, blood pressure and chronic kidney disease

Belen Ponte*, Marie C. Sadler, Eric Olinger, Peter Vollenweider, Murielle Bochud, Sandosh Padmanabhan, Caroline Hayward, Zoltán Kutalik, Olivier Devuyst

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


UMOD variants associated with higher levels of urinary uromodulin (uUMOD) increase the risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and hypertension. However, uUMOD levels also reflect functional kidney tubular mass in observational studies, questioning the causal link between uromodulin production and kidney damage. We used Mendelian randomization to clarify causality between uUMOD levels, kidney function and blood pressure in individuals of European descent. The link between uUMOD and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) was first investigated in a population-based cohort of 3851 individuals. In observational data, higher uUMOD associated with higher eGFR. Conversely, when using rs12917707 (an UMOD polymorphism) as an instrumental variable in one-sample Mendelian randomization, higher uUMOD strongly associated with eGFR decline. We next applied two-sample Mendelian randomization on four genome wide association study consortia to explore causal links between uUMOD and eGFR, CKD risk (567,460 individuals) and blood pressure (757,461 individuals). Higher uUMOD levels significantly associated with lower eGFR, higher odds for eGFR decline or CKD, and higher systolic or diastolic blood pressure. Each one standard deviation (SD) increase of uUMOD decreased log-transformed eGFR by -0.15 SD (95% confidence interval -0.17 to -0.13) and increased log-odds CKD by 0.13 SD (0.12 to 0.15). One SD increase of uUMOD increased systolic blood pressure by 0.06 SD (0.03 to 0.09) and diastolic blood pressure by 0.08 SD (0.05 to 0.12). The effect of uUMOD on blood pressure was mediated by eGFR, whereas the effect on eGFR was not mediated by blood pressure. Thus, our data support that genetically driven levels of uromodulin have a direct, causal and adverse effect on kidney function outcome in the general population, not mediated by blood pressure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1282-1291
Number of pages10
JournalKidney International
Issue number6
Early online date8 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • blood pressure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • estimated glomerular filtration rate
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Mendelian randomization
  • uromodulin


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