The vascular pole of the renal glomerulus of rat

Adv Anat Embryol Cell Biol. 1998;139:1-98. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-80449-6.


In the present study we provide a detailed structural analysis of the vascular pole of superficial and midcortical glomeruli of the rat kidney. A description of the juxtaglomerular portions of the afferent and efferent arterioles, the extraglomerular mesangium and the glomerular stalk is included. The specific structural elaboration of the epithelial transition from the podocytes to the parietal epithelium is emphasized, with particular attention to the arrangement of the cytoskeleton and its connections to extracellular matrix elements. The branching patterns of the afferent and efferent arterioles are quite different. Immediately at the glomerular entrance, the afferent arteriole divides into its primary branches. In contrast, the efferent arteriole has a specific outflow segment (consisting of an intraglomerular portion and a portion associated with the extraglomerular mesangium) established by the confluence of capillary tributaries deep inside the glomerular tuft. Just at the transition from inside to outside, this segment includes a prominent narrow portion with conspicuous endothelial cells bulging into the vessel lumen. The extraglomerular mesangium has been found to represent a solid block of cells and matrix filling the space between the macula densa and both arterioles and extending into the entrance funnel. Peripherally located extraglomerular mesangial cells attach to the outer aspect of the parietal basement membrane. As a whole, the extraglomerular mesangium occludes the glomerular tuft. The results appear relevant with respect to four major aspects: (1) a support function counteracting the expansile forces resulting from the high intraglomerular pressures, (2) a direct functional influence of the afferent on the efferent arteriole, resulting from their narrow assemblage at the glomerular entrance, (3) a specific shear stress receptor function of the intraglomerular segment of the efferent arteriole, and (4) fluid leakage from the glomerular tuft through the stalk and the extraglomerular mesangium into the cortical interstitium. 1. The glomerulus is a high-pressure compartment; expansile forces continuously tend to expand glomerular capillaries, the glomerular stalk, and the glomerular entrance. Counteracting centripetal forces at the vascular pole appear to be developed as circular forces by the cytoskeleton of podocytes and parietal cells surrounding the glomerular entrance and as interconnecting forces between both arterioles and between opposing walls of the glomerular entrance, as well as of the glomerular stalk. These interconnecting forces are developed by the extraglomerular mesangium which--as a whole--forms a spiderlike closure device holding the glomerular entrance together. In addition, the extraglomerular mesangium develops occluding forces, allowing a gradual pressure drop between the glomerular stalk and the macula densa. 2. At the glomerular entrance, the outflow segment of the efferent arteriole is narrowly associated with the bifurcation of the afferent arteriole. Both are enclosed together in a common compartment surrounded by the glomerular basement membrane; there is no pressure barrier individually encompassing each vessel. Therefore, it may readily be suggested that the hydrostatic pressure of the afferent arteriole acts on the efferent arteriole. As a consequence, the luminal width of the efferent arteriole at this site, i.e., its resistance, may be directly modified by the pressure in the afferent arteriole. 3. The efferent arteriole at the transition of the intraglomerular segment to the segment that passes through the extraglomerular mesangium has a conspicuously narrow portion with endothelial cells protruding into the vessel lumen. In addition, this segment is prominent by the expression of the neuronal type of nitric oxide synthase. We therefore propose that this segment acts as a specific shear stress receptor. The possible relevance of a shear stress receptor at this site would be

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arterioles / ultrastructure
  • Glomerular Mesangium / ultrastructure
  • Kidney / ultrastructure
  • Kidney Glomerulus / blood supply*
  • Kidney Glomerulus / ultrastructure*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar