BACKGROUND Apolipoprotein A-IV (apoA-IV) is an anti-atherogenic and antioxidative glycoprotein. Plasma apoA-IV levels are elevated in patients with primary chronic kidney disease (CKD) or renal failure. The association between apoA-IV and kidney function has not been investigated in the general population; therefore, we analysed this relationship in two large population-based cohorts. METHODS Plasma apoA-IV concentrations were measured in the Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg (KORA) F3 (n = 3159) and KORA F4 (n = 3061) studies. CKD was defined by the serum creatinine-estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) and/or urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio. RESULTS Mean (±SD) apoA-IV concentration was 17.3 ± 4.7 mg dL(-1) in KORA F3 and 15.3 ± 4.3 mg dL(-1) in KORA F4. Fully adjusted linear mixed models revealed a significant association between apoA-IV concentration and lower eGFR in the third and fourth versus the first quartile of apoA-IV (β = -1.78 mL min(-1) /1.73 m², P = 0.0003 and β = -5.09 mL min(-1) /1.73 m², P = 2.83 × 10(-23) , respectively). ApoA-IV was significantly associated with an eGFR of <60 mL min(-1) /1.73 m², which was observed in 601 of the 6220 study participants [odds ratio (OR) 1.46, P = 0.03 and OR 3.47, P = 6.84 × 10(-15) for the third and fourth vs. the first quartile of apoA-IV, respectively]. Adding apoA-IV (fourth vs. first quartile) to the fully adjusted model significantly improved discrimination of eGFR <60 mL min(-1) /1.73 m² in KORA F3 [integrated discrimination improvement (IDI) 0.03, P = 1.30 × 10(-7) ] and KORA F4 (IDI 0.04, P = 1.32 × 10(-9) ) beyond classical risk factors for CKD. CONCLUSION The present analysis in two population-based cohorts revealed that high plasma apoA-IV concentrations are strongly associated with low kidney function defined by eGFR independent of major CKD risk factors. ApoA-IV appears to be an early marker of impaired kidney function.