Nephron endowment and blood pressure: what do we really know?

Curr Hypertens Rep. 2004 Apr;6(2):133-9. doi: 10.1007/s11906-004-0089-2.


It has been hypothesized that a reduced number of nephrons at birth contributes to the development of essential hypertension. Nephron number in normal human kidneys has been shown to vary up to eightfold. Therefore, a significant proportion of the population appears to be at risk for developing hypertension. Furthermore, nephron deficits might explain why some racial groups have a higher incidence of hypertension and end-stage renal disease than others. Animal studies have demonstrated that maternal limitations in nutrient supply, both gross and nutrient-specific; exposure to elevated levels of hormones or toxins; and genetic factors can lead to permanent deficits in nephron number and, when examined, elevated blood pressure. In this review, maternal and genetic factors influencing nephron endowment and the implications of nephron deficit for hypertension and renal disease in humans are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development / physiology
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / genetics
  • Fetal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / etiology*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Kidney Diseases / complications*
  • Kidney Diseases / congenital
  • Kidney Diseases / physiopathology
  • Models, Animal
  • Nephrons / physiopathology*
  • Pregnancy