A genome-wide association study identifies a possible role for cannabinoid signalling in the pathogenesis of diabetic kidney disease

Wael Osman, Mira Mousa, Mohammed Albreiki, Zahrah Baalfaqih, Hinda Daggag, Claire Hill, Amy Jayne McKnight, Alexander P Maxwell, Habiba Al Safar

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Diabetic kidney disease (DKD), also known as diabetic nephropathy, is the leading cause of renal impairment and end-stage renal disease. Patients with diabetes are at risk for DKD because of poor control of their blood glucose, as well as nonmodifable risk factors including age, ethnicity, and genetics. This genome-wide association study (GWAS) was conducted for the frst time in the Emirati population to investigate possible genetic factors associated with the development and progression of DKD. We included data on 7,921,925 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) in 258 cases of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) who developed DKD and 938 control subjects with T2DM who did not develop DKD. GWAS suggestive results (P< 1 × ­10–5) were further replicated using summary statistics from three cohorts with T2DM-induced DKD (Bio Bank Japan data, UK Biobank, and FinnGen Project data) and T1DM-induced DKD (UK-ROI cohort data from Belfast, UK). When conducting a multiple linear regression model for gene-set analyses, the CNR2 gene demonstrated genome-wide signifcance at 1.46 × ­10–6. SNPs in CNR2 gene, encodes cannabinoid receptor 2 or CB2, were replicated in Japanese samples with the leading SNP rs2501391 showing a Pcombined = 9.3 × ­10–7, and odds ratio= 0.67 in association with DKD associated with T2DM, but not with T1DM, without any signifcant association with T2DM itself. The allele frequencies of our cohort and those of the replication cohorts were in most cases markedly diferent. In addition, we replicated the association between rs1564939 in the GLRA3 gene and DKD in T2DM (P= 0.016, odds ratio= 0.54 per allele C). Our fndings suggest evidence that cannabinoid signalling may be involved in the development of DKD through CB2, which is expressed in diferent kidney regions and known to be involved in insulin resistance, infammation, and the development of kidney fbrosis.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4661
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date22 Mar 2023
Publication statusEarly online date - 22 Mar 2023


  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 - complications
  • Diabetic Nephropathies - genetics - complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 - genetics - complications
  • Cannabinoids
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans


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