Architecture of interstitial nodal spaces in the rodent renal inner medulla

Rebecca L. Gilbert, Thomas L. Pannabecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Every collecting duct (CD) of the rat inner medulla is uniformly surrounded by about four abutting ascending vasa recta (AVR) running parallel to it. One or two ascending thin limbs (ATLs) lie between and parallel to each abutting AVR pair, opposite the CD. These structures form boundaries of axially running interstitial compartments. Viewed in transverse sections, these compartments appear as four interstitial nodal spaces (INSs) positioned symmetrically around each CD. The axially running compartments are segmented by interstitial cells spaced at regular intervals. The pairing of ATLs and CDs bounded by an abundant supply of AVR carrying reabsorbed water, NaCl, and urea make a strong argument that the mixing of NaCl and urea within the INSs and countercurrent flows play a critical role in generating the inner medullary osmotic gradient. The results of this study fully support that hypothesis. We quantified interactions of all structures comprising INSs along the corticopapillary axis for two rodent species, the Munich-Wistar rat and the kangaroo rat. The results showed remarkable similarities in the configurations of INSs, suggesting that the structural arrangement of INSs is a highly conserved architecture that plays a fundamental role in renal function. The number density of INSs along the corticopapillary axis directly correlated with a loop population that declines exponentially with distance below the outer medullary-inner medullary boundary. The axial configurations were consistent with discrete association between near-bend loop segments and INSs and with upper loop segments lying distant from INSs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)F745-F752
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2013


  • Aquaporin
  • Collecting duct
  • Renal microcirculation
  • Urea transport
  • Urine concentrating mechanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Urology


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