Architecture of kangaroo rat inner medulla: Segmentation of descending thin limb of Henle's loop

Vinoo B. Urity, Tadeh Issaian, Eldon J. Braun, William H. Dantzler, Thomas L. Pannabecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


We hypothesize that the inner medulla of the kangaroo rat Dipodomys merriami, a desert rodent that concentrates its urine to more than 6,000 mosmol/kgH 2O water, provides unique examples of architectural features necessary for production of highly concentrated urine. To investigate this architecture, inner medullary nephron segments in the initial 3,000 μm below the outer medulla were assessed with digital reconstructions from physical tissue sections. Descending thin limbs of Henle (DTLs), ascending thin limbs of Henle (ATLs), and collecting ducts (CDs) were identified by immunofluorescence using antibodies that label segment-specific proteins associated with transepithelial water flux (aquaporin 1 and 2, AQP1 and AQP2) and chloride flux (the chloride channel ClC-K1); all tubules and vessels were labeled with wheat germ agglutinin. In the outer 3,000 μm of the inner medulla, AQP1-positive DTLs lie at the periphery of groups of CDs. ATLs lie inside and outside the groups of CDs. Immunohistochemistry and reconstructions of loops that form their bends in the outer 3,000 μm of the inner medulla show that, relative to loop length, the AQP1-positive segment of the kangaroo rat is significantly longer than that of the Munich-Wistar rat. The length of ClC-K1 expression in the prebend region at the terminal end of the descending side of the loop in kangaroo rat is about 50% shorter than that of the Munich-Wistar rat. Tubular fluid of the kangaroo rat DTL may approach osmotic equilibrium with interstitial fluid by water reabsorption along a relatively longer tubule length, compared with Munich-Wistar rat. A relatively shorter-length prebend segment may promote a steeper reabsorptive driving force at the loop bend. These structural features predict functionality that is potentially significant in the production of a high urine osmolality in the kangaroo rat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)720-726
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Aquaporin
  • CLC-K1
  • Concentrating mechanism
  • Urea transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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