A simplified method for isolation of large numbers of defined nephron segments

Am J Physiol. 1997 Oct;273(4):F650-7. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.1997.273.4.F650.


We describe a simplified method for the isolation of large numbers of nephron segments from rat and rabbit kidneys. In contrast to most previous protocols, the kidneys are not perfused. After removal from the animal, the kidney is sliced and torn in pieces that are subsequently digested in culture medium containing 0.5 mg/ml of collagenase at 37 degrees C. If the preparation is agitated only very gently and infrequently, then the tissue gradually falls apart into a suspension containing long nephron fragments, often consisting of multiple connected segments. These are easily sorted into homogeneous segment populations that can be used for enzyme assays, protein extraction for immunoblotting, and RNA extraction for reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, all of which have been done successfully in our laboratory. For comparison, we have also examined cortical collecting tubule segments and cells prepared by the more rigorous protocol described previously (E. Schlatter, U. Fröbe, and R. Greger. Pflügers Arch. 421: 381-387, 1992). Even after the isolation of single cells in a Ca2+-free medium, the cells maintain their normal architecture and a distinct separation of apical and basolateral membranes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Collagenases / pharmacology
  • Dissection
  • Endopeptidases / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Histological Techniques*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Nephrons* / ultrastructure
  • Perfusion
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Endopeptidases
  • Collagenases