Functional implications of the three-dimensional architecture of the rat renal inner medulla

Anita T. Layton, Thomas L. Pannabecker, William H. Dantzler, Harold E. Layton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


A new, region-based mathematical model of the urine concentrating mechanism of the rat renal inner medulla (IM) was used to investigate the significance of transport and structural properties revealed in recent studies that employed immunohistochemical methods combined with three-dimensional computerized reconstruction. The model simulates preferential interactions among tubules and vessels by representing two concentric regions. The inner region, which represents a collecting duct (CD) cluster, contains CDs, some ascending thin limbs (ATLs), and some ascending vasa recta; the outer region, which represents the intercluster region, contains descending thin limbs, descending vasa recta, remaining ATLs, and additional ascending vasa recta. In the upper portion of the IM, the model predicts that interstitial Na+ and urea concentrations (and osmolality) in the CD clusters differ significantly from those in the intercluster regions: model calculations predict that those CD clusters have higher urea concentrations than the intercluster regions, a finding that is consistent with a concentrating mechanism that depends principally on the mixing of NaCl from ATLs and urea from CDs. In the lower IM, the model predicts that limited or nearly zero water permeability in descending thin limb segments will increase concentrating effectiveness by increasing the rate of solute-free water absorption. The model predicts that high urea permeabilities in the upper portions of ATLs and increased contact areas of longest loop bends with CDs both modestly increase concentrating capability. A surprising finding is that the concentrating capability of this region-based model falls short of the capability of a model IM that has radially homogeneous interstitial fluid at each level but is otherwise analogous to the region-based model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)F973-F987
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Countercurrent system
  • Mathematical model
  • NaCl transport
  • Urea transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Urology


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