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Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 188, Issue 6, pp 899–918 | Cite as

Mammalian urine concentration: a review of renal medullary architecture and membrane transporters

  • C. Michele Nawata
  • Thomas L. Pannabecker
Review
  • 320 Downloads

Abstract

Mammalian kidneys play an essential role in balancing internal water and salt concentrations. When water needs to be conserved, the renal medulla produces concentrated urine. Central to this process of urine concentration is an osmotic gradient that increases from the corticomedullary boundary to the inner medullary tip. How this gradient is generated and maintained has been the subject of study since the 1940s. While it is generally accepted that the outer medulla contributes to the gradient by means of an active process involving countercurrent multiplication, the source of the gradient in the inner medulla is unclear. The last two decades have witnessed advances in our understanding of the urine-concentrating mechanism. Details of medullary architecture and permeability properties of the tubules and vessels suggest that the functional and anatomic relationships of these structures may contribute to the osmotic gradient necessary to concentrate urine. Additionally, we are learning more about the membrane transporters involved and their regulatory mechanisms. The role of medullary architecture and membrane transporters in the mammalian urine-concentrating mechanism are the focus of this review.

Keywords

Kidney Urea transporters Aquaporins Renal medulla 

Abbreviations

AQP

Aquaporin

AMPK

Adenosine monophosphate kinase

ATL

Ascending thin limb

AVP

Arginine vasopressin

AVR

Ascending vasa recta

CD

Collecting duct

dDAVP

Desmopressin

DTL

Descending thin limb

DVR

Descending vasa recta

Epac

Exchange protein activated by cAMP

IM

Inner medulla

IMCD

Inner medullary collecting duct

ISOM

Inner stripe of the outer medulla

LXR

Liver X receptor

NHE3

Na+/H+ exchanger 3

NKCC2

Na+–K+–2Cl cotransporter 2

OM

Outer medulla

OSOM

Outer stripe of the outer medulla

P2Y12-R

Purinergic P2Y12 receptor

PGE2

Prostaglandin E2

PRR

Prorenin receptor

sPRR

Soluble prorenin receptor

STZ

Streptozotocin

TAL

Thick ascending limb

UT

Urea transporter

V2R

Arginine vasopressin receptor 2

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Grant DK083338, National Science Foundation Grant IOS-0952885 and Joint DMS/NIGMS Initiative under NSF Grant DMS-1263943.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physiology, Banner University Medical CenterUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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