Background: Males of a substrain of Munich-Wistar rats (MWF/Ztm), selected for their large number of superficial glomeruli, develop spontaneous proteinuria with age, whereas females of this strain have a normal urinary protein excretion rate.
Experimental design: We investigated the relationship between functional and structural glomerular alterations in four groups of male and female MWF/Ztm rats, respectively at 20 and 35 weeks of age. Systolic blood pressure, urinary protein excretion and composition of urinary proteins were periodically measured during the study. At the end of the observation period, renal function was evaluated with solute clearance technique and kidney tissue processed for morphologic and morphometrical analysis using light and electron microscopy.
Results: Systolic blood pressure in males was significantly higher than in females, and progressed toward systemic hypertension with age. Urinary protein excretion became spontaneously abnormal in males. About 50% of urinary proteins consisted of albumin, whereas 35% was a sex-dependent low molecular weight protein. Albumin excretion increased with age in these animals, whereas excretion of the sex-dependent protein decreased. Urinary protein excretion in females was significantly lower than in males of the same age, remaining near normal levels. No decline in renal function with age was observed in all animal groups. Glomerular structural alterations developed progressively with age in males, leading to important glomerular and tubular alterations. Female rats maintained almost intact glomerular morphology until the end of the study. Morphometric analysis showed an important increase in glomerular volume with age in males but not in females. This glomerular tuft enlargement was the result of an increase in the number of glomerular cells and a concomitant increase in cell volume.
Conclusions: Male MWF/Ztm rats develop spontaneously systemic hypertension, proteinuria of glomerular origin, and glomerulosclerosis. Female rats develop less severe hypertension and are protected from proteinuria and glomerulosclerosis.