Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 226, Issue 3, pp 589–608 | Cite as

Cells and intercellular contacts in glomeruli and tubules of the frog kidney

A freeze-fracture and thin-section study
  • R. Taugner
  • A. Schiller
  • S. Ntokalou-Knittel


By the use of thin sections and freeze-fracture replicas the glomerular and tubular structures of the kidney of the frog (Rana esculenta) were studied with special reference to intercellular junctions.

In the glomerulus the filtration barrier is of very variable thickness, and frequent tight and gap junctional contacts occur between podocyte processes.

Although structurally less elaborate, the proximal tubule resembles its mammalian counterpart. In the initial part the tight junctions are relatively shallow but become very broad in the mid and distal portions of the proximal tubule. The proximal tubular cells are extensively linked by gap junctions. In some animals the shapes of the cells in the proximal and distal portions of the proximal tubule were markedly different.

The distal tubule consists of two segments which differ mainly in the pattern of interdigitations and the structure of the zonulae occludentes. Similarities with the tight junctional morphology of the mammalian distal tubule are striking. In the first part of the distal tubule (diluting segment) a narrow band of parallel tight junctions is found closely resembling that found in the mammalian straight distal tubule; in the more distal part of the distal tubule, however, a broad band of anastomosing tight junctional strands exists, like the zonula occludens of the mammalian convoluted distal tubule.

The connecting tubule displays cellular dimorphism: its wall contains a mixture of light and dark (flask) cells. The luminal and basolateral membranes of the flask cells are covered with numerous rod-shaped particles. The tight junctions of the connecting tubule are broad and increase in depth and number of strands along its length; they are typical of a very tight epithelium.

In spite of several dissimilarities with phylogenetically younger kidneys our findings suggest that many structural principles of the mammalian kidney are also represented in the kidneys of amphibians. The structural-functional relationships are discussed.

Key words

Kidney (frog) Glomerulus Nephron Tight junctions Freeze-fracturing Electron microscopy 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Taugner
    • 1
  • A. Schiller
    • 1
  • S. Ntokalou-Knittel
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Physiology I, University of HeidelbergHeidelbergFederal Republic of Germany

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