Endothelium structure and function in kidney health and disease

Nat Rev Nephrol. 2019 Feb;15(2):87-108. doi: 10.1038/s41581-018-0098-z.


The kidney harbours different types of endothelia, each with specific structural and functional characteristics. The glomerular endothelium, which is highly fenestrated and covered by a rich glycocalyx, participates in the sieving properties of the glomerular filtration barrier and in the maintenance of podocyte structure. The microvascular endothelium in peritubular capillaries, which is also fenestrated, transports reabsorbed components and participates in epithelial cell function. The endothelium of large and small vessels supports the renal vasculature. These renal endothelia are protected by regulators of thrombosis, inflammation and complement, but endothelial injury (for example, induced by toxins, antibodies, immune cells or inflammatory cytokines) or defects in factors that provide endothelial protection (for example, regulators of complement or angiogenesis) can lead to acute or chronic renal injury. Moreover, renal endothelial cells can transition towards a mesenchymal phenotype, favouring renal fibrosis and the development of chronic kidney disease. Thus, the renal endothelium is both a target and a driver of kidney and systemic cardiovascular complications. Emerging therapeutic strategies that target the renal endothelium may lead to improved outcomes for both rare and common renal diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Endothelial Cells / pathology
  • Endothelial Cells / physiology
  • Endothelium* / anatomy & histology
  • Endothelium* / pathology
  • Endothelium* / physiology
  • Endothelium* / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology*
  • Kidney Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Kidney Diseases / therapy
  • Kidney* / anatomy & histology
  • Kidney* / pathology
  • Kidney* / physiology
  • Kidney* / physiopathology