The three-dimensional cytoarchitecture of the interstitial tissue in the rat kidney

Cell Tissue Res. 1991 May;264(2):269-81. doi: 10.1007/BF00313964.


The cytoarchitecture of the interstitial tissue of the rat kidney was studied by combined scanning and transmission electron microscopy. The renal interstitium is composed of an elaborate network of stellate sustentacular cells. In the cortex, sustentacular cells radiate thin branching processes to form a fine reticulum, which supports intertubular spaces. In the medulla, these cells extend thick processes horizontally along the basal surfaces of the thin limbs or vasa recta, reinforcing their attenuate walls. The horizontal processes connect with each other at their terminals, compartmentalizing the interstitial space into thin layers. The medullary sustentacular cells contain abundant small lipid droplets. The network of sustentacular cells houses vasa recta, keeping them in parallel position to each other and to the tubules. The arterial vasa recta are accompanied by pericytes, which frequently contain lipid droplets larger in size than those in the sustentacular cells. Venous vasa recta extend numerous basal microvilli, which anchor the venous wall to adjacent tubules or vessels. Numerous free cells, round in shape, are found in the sustentacular cell network, especially in the cortex. They consist of macrophages and occasional lymphocytes. Some macrophages extend long pseudopodia, while others make intimate contact with lymphocytes, suggesting their high level of activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Capillaries / ultrastructure
  • Connective Tissue / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Kidney / blood supply
  • Kidney / ultrastructure*
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains