Morphometric study of arterioles and glomeruli in the aging kidney suggests focal loss of autoregulation

Kidney Int. 2003 Mar;63(3):1027-36. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1755.2003.00831.x.


Background: In the past it was widely assumed that hyaline afferent arteriolosclerosis was responsible for ischemic glomerulosclerosis in the aging and hypertensive kidney. However, glomerular lesions of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis are now recognized in essential hypertension. Experimentally, such lesions are associated with loss of autoregulation of blood flow and glomerular hyperperfusion, as well as initial glomerular hypertrophy. These observations challenge the notion of ischemia as a unitary explanation for glomerulosclerosis.

Methods: A morphometric study was performed on normal portions of eight kidneys removed for tumors in aging, normotensive patients. Measurements were made of 126 pairs of afferent arterioles and their associated glomeruli. In addition, the amount of extracellular matrix (ECM) in the immediate periglomerular region was quantitated.

Results: Afferent arterioles were divided into three types according to the presence or absence of hyaline deposits and whether these did or did not obstruct the lumen. Arterioles with nonobstructive hyaline deposits had lumens over twice as large as those without deposits (482 +/- 240 micro2 vs. 204 +/- 160 micro2, P=0.0000). Their associated glomeruli had significantly greater total capillary area, particularly the hilar capillaries (1276 +/- 797 micro2 vs. 667 +/- 492 micro2, P=0.002), but with larger individual capillaries elsewhere as well (P=0.03). Arterioles with obstructive deposits differed from those with nonobstructive deposits by their smaller lumens (P=0.001) and walls (P=0.004), with a higher proportion of ECM in the periglomerular region (P=0.001), all consistent with a later stage of lesion. Glomeruli were divided into four basic types: normal, hypertrophic, glomeruli with features of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS-type), and ischemic. Compared to normal glomeruli, hypertrophic glomeruli were larger, with greater total capillary area (P=0.0005), particularly the hilar capillaries (P=0.0000), and larger capillaries in the remainder of the tuft (P=0.003), but showed no evident lesions. FSGS-type glomeruli were also larger, with larger hilar capillaries (P=0.0005), but showed an increase in ECM due to sclerotic lesions (P=0.004). The remaining capillaries showed an inverse relation with the amount of mesangial matrix, showing a spectrum of sizes from enlarged to shrunken. As anticipated, ischemic glomeruli were significantly smaller than normal ones in every parameter measured. There was a strong association between hypertrophic/FSGS-type glomeruli and hyaline arteriolosclerosis, found in 90.3% of such glomeruli, versus 29.1% for the remaining glomeruli (P=0.0001). The great majority of hyaline deposits were of the nonobstructive variety (86.2%), but some were obstructive (13.8%), particularly in FSGS-type glomeruli, consistent with a more advanced lesion.

Conclusions: We believe we have demonstrated in the aging kidney of humans the morphologic correlates of loss of autoregulation, occurring on a focal basis, with afferent arteriolar dilatation and increase in glomerular capillary size and subsequent focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. Hyaline arteriolosclerosis of the nonobstructive sort is strongly associated with these changes and may play a role in their pathogenesis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Arterioles / metabolism
  • Arterioles / pathology
  • Arterioles / physiopathology
  • Arteriosclerosis / metabolism
  • Arteriosclerosis / pathology
  • Arteriosclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Capillaries / metabolism
  • Capillaries / pathology
  • Capillaries / physiopathology
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Glomerulosclerosis, Focal Segmental / pathology
  • Glomerulosclerosis, Focal Segmental / physiopathology*
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hyalin / metabolism
  • Kidney Glomerulus / blood supply*
  • Kidney Glomerulus / metabolism
  • Kidney Glomerulus / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged