In developing mouse kidneys, orientation of loop of Henle growth is adaptive and guided by long-range cues from medullary collecting ducts

J Anat. 2019 Aug;235(2):262-270. doi: 10.1111/joa.13012. Epub 2019 May 17.


The path taken by the loop of Henle, from renal cortex to medulla and back, is critical to the ability of the kidney to concentrate urine and recover water. Unlike most developing tubules, which navigate as blind-ended cylinders, the loop of Henle extends as a sharply bent loop, the apex of which leads the double tubes behind it in a 'V' shape. Here, we show that, in normal kidney development, loops of Henle extend towards the centroid of the kidney with an accuracy that increases the longer they extend. Using cultured kidney rudiments, and manipulations that rotate or remove portions of the organ, we show that loop orientation depends on long-range cues from the medulla rather than either the orientation of the parent nephron or local cues in the cortex. The loops appear to be attracted to the most mature branch point of the collecting duct system but, if this is removed, they will head towards the most mature collecting duct branch available to them. Our results demonstrate the adaptive nature of guidance of this unusual example of a growing epithelium, and set the stage for later work devoted to understanding the molecules and mechanisms that underlie it.

Keywords: chemotaxis; guidance; kidney development; nephrogenesis; tubulogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Kidney Tubules, Collecting / embryology
  • Loop of Henle / embryology*
  • Mice
  • Pregnancy