Background Uromodulin, the most abundant protein excreted in normal urine, plays major roles in kidney physiology and disease. The mechanisms regulating the urinary excretion of uromodulin remain essentially unknown. Methods We conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies for raw (uUMOD) and indexed to creatinine (uUCR) urinary levels of uromodulin in 29,315 individuals of European ancestry from 13 cohorts. We tested the distribution of candidate genes in kidney segments and investigated the effects of keratin-40 (KRT40) on uromodulin processing. Results Two genome-wide significant signals were identified for uUMOD: a novel locus (P 1.24E-08) over the KRT40 gene coding for KRT40, a type 1 keratin expressed in the kidney, and the UMOD-PDILT locus (P 2.17E-88), with two independent sets of single nucleotide polymorphisms spread over UMOD and PDILT. Two genome-wide significant signals for uUCR were identified at the UMOD-PDILT locus and at the novel WDR72 locus previously associated with kidney function. The effect sizes for rs8067385, the index single nucleotide polymorphism in the KRT40 locus, were similar for both uUMOD and uUCR. KRT40 colocalized with uromodulin and modulating its expression in thick ascending limb (TAL) cells affected uromodulin processing and excretion. Conclusions Common variants in KRT40,WDR72, UMOD, and PDILT associate with the levels of uromodulin in urine. The expression of KRT40 affects uromodulin processing in TAL cells. These results, although limited by lack of replication, provide insights into the biology of uromodulin, the role of keratins in the kidney, and the influence of the UMOD-PDILT locus on kidney function.
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