Functional reconstruction of inner medullary thin limbs of Henle and collecting ducts (CDs) has enabled us to characterize distinctive three-dimensional vertical and lateral relationships between these segments. We previously reported that inner medullary descending thin limbs (DTLs) that form a bend at a distance greater than ∼1 mm below the inner medullary base express detectable aquaporin (AQP) 1 only along the initial 40% of the segment before the bend, whereas ClC-K1 is expressed continuously along all ascending thin limbs (ATLs), beginning with the prebend segment. We have now reconstructed individual CDs that are grouped together in single clusters at the base of the inner medulla; CDs belonging to each separate cluster coalesce into a single CD in the deep papilla. DTLs are positioned predominantly at the periphery of each individual CD cluster at all levels of the inner medulla and are absent from within the cluster. In contrast, ATLs are distributed near uniformly among the CDs and DTLs at all levels of the inner medulla. A second population of inner medullary DTLs averages ∼700 μm in length from base to bend and, as previously reported, expresses no detectable AQP1 and expresses ClC-K1 continuously beginning with the prebend segment. ATLs located within the interior of the CD clusters arise predominantly from these short AQP1-null inner medullary DTLs, suggesting there may be functional interdependence between IMCD1 segments and short-length inner medullary thin limbs exhibiting minimal water permeability along their descending segments. AQP1-expressing DTLs and CDs are apparently separated into two structurally distinct lateral compartments. A similar lateral compartmentation between the ATLs and CDs is not apparent. This architectural arrangement indicates that fluid and solutes may be preferentially transported transversely between multiple inner medullary compartments.
- Concentrating mechanism
- Countercurrent multiplier
- Three-dimensional reconstruction
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