NaCl Reabsorption in the Kidney A

The smallest functional unit of the kidney is the nephron. In the glomerular capillary loops, ultrafiltration of plasma fluid into Bowman's capsule (BC) yields primary urine. In the proximal tubules (pT), approx. 70% of the ultrafiltrate is retrieved by isoosmotic reabsorption of NaCl and water. In the thick portion of the ascending limb of Henle's loop (HL), NaCl is absorbed unaccompanied by water. This is the prerequisite for the hairpin countercurrent mechanism that allows build-up of a very high NaCl concentration in the renal medulla. In the distal tubules (dT), NaCl and water are again jointly reabsorbed. At the end of the nephron, this process involves an al-dosterone-controlled exchange of Na+ against K+ or H+. In the collecting tubule (C), vasopressin (antidiuretic hormone, ADH) increases the epithelial permeability for water, which is drawn into the hyperosmolar milieu of the renal medulla and thus retained in the body. As a result, a concentrated urine enters the renal pelvis.

Na+ transport through the tubular cells basically occurs in similar fashion in all segments of the nephron. The intracellular concentration of Na+ is significantly below that in primary urine. This concentration gradient is the driving force for entry of Na+ into the cytosol of tubular cells. A carrier mechanism moves Na+ across the membrane. Energy liberated during this influx can be utilized for the coupled outward transport of another particle against a gradient From the cell interior, Na+ is moved with expenditure of energy (ATP hydrolysis) by Na+/K+-ATPase into the extracellular space. The enzyme molecules are confined to the basolateral parts of the cell membrane, facing the interstiti-um; Na+ can, therefore, not escape back into tubular fluid.

All diuretics inhibit Na+ reabsorption. Basically, either the inward or the outward transport of Na+ can be affected.

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