Difference Between Renal Threshold And Transport Maximum

Tubular lumen


Amino acids


Figure 27-3

Mechanisms of secondary active transport.The upper cell shows the co-transport of glucose and amino acids along with sodium ions through the apical side of the tubular epithelial cells, followed by facilitated diffusion through the basolateral membranes. The lower cell shows the counter-transport of hydrogen ions from the interior of the cell across the apical membrane and into the tubular lumen; movement of sodium ions into the cell, down an electrochemical gradient established by the sodium-potassium pump on the basolateral membrane, provides the energy for transport of the hydrogen ions from inside the cell into the tubular lumen.

(for instance, glucose) against its electrochemical gradient. Thus, secondary active transport does not require energy directly from ATP or from other high-energy phosphate sources. Rather, the direct source of the energy is that liberated by the simultaneous facilitated diffusion of another transported substance down its own electrochemical gradient.

Figure 27-3 shows secondary active transport of glucose and amino acids in the proximal tubule. In both instances, a specific carrier protein in the brush border combines with a sodium ion and an amino acid or a glucose molecule at the same time. These transport mechanisms are so efficient that they remove virtually all the glucose and amino acids from the tubular lumen. After entry into the cell, glucose and amino acids exit across the basolateral membranes by facilitated diffusion, driven by the high glucose and amino acid concentrations in the cell.

Although transport of glucose against a chemical gradient does not directly use ATP, the reabsorption of glucose depends on energy expended by the primary active sodium-potassium ATPase pump in the basolateral membrane. Because of the activity of this pump, an electrochemical gradient for facilitated diffusion of sodium across the luminal membrane is maintained, and it is this downhill diffusion of sodium to the interior of the cell that provides the energy for the simultaneous uphill transport of glucose across the luminal membrane. Thus, this reabsorption of glucose is referred to as "secondary active transport" because glucose itself is reabsorbed uphill against a chemical gradient, but it is "secondary" to primary active transport of sodium.

Another important point is that a substance is said to undergo "active" transport when at least one of the steps in the reabsorption involves primary or secondary active transport, even though other steps in the reabsorption process may be passive. For glucose reabsorption, secondary active transport occurs at the luminal membrane, but passive facilitated diffusion occurs at the basolateral membrane, and passive uptake by bulk flow occurs at the peritubular capillaries.

Secondary Active Secretion into the Tubules. Some substances are secreted into the tubules by secondary active transport. This often involves counter-transport of the substance with sodium ions. In counter-transport, the energy liberated from the downhill movement of one of the substances (for example, sodium ions) enables uphill movement of a second substance in the opposite direction.

One example of counter-transport, shown in Figure 27-3, is the active secretion of hydrogen ions coupled to sodium reabsorption in the luminal membrane of the proximal tubule. In this case, sodium entry into the cell is coupled with hydrogen extrusion from the cell by sodium-hydrogen counter-transport. This transport is mediated by a specific protein in the brush border of the luminal membrane. As sodium is carried to the interior of the cell, hydrogen ions are forced outward in the opposite direction into the tubular lumen. The basic principles of primary and secondary active transport are discussed in additional detail in Chapter 4.

Pinocytosis—An Active Transport Mechanism for Reabsorption of Proteins. Some parts of the tubule, especially the proximal tubule, reabsorb large molecules such as proteins by pinocytosis. In this process, the protein attaches to the brush border of the luminal membrane, and this portion of the membrane then invaginates to the interior of the cell until it is completely pinched off and a vesicle is formed containing the protein. Once inside the cell, the protein is digested into its constituent amino acids, which are reabsorbed through the basolateral membrane into the interstitial fluid. Because pinocytosis requires energy, it is considered a form of active transport.

Transport Maximum for Substances That Are Actively Reabsorbed. For most substances that are actively reabsorbed or secreted, there is a limit to the rate at which the solute can be transported, often referred to as the transport maximum. This limit is due to saturation of the specific transport systems involved when the amount of solute delivered to the tubule (referred to as tubular load) exceeds the capacity of the carrier proteins and specific enzymes involved in the transport process.

Figure 27-4

Relations among the filtered load of glucose, the rate of glucose reabsorption by the renal tubules, and the rate of glucose excretion in the urine. The transport maximum is the maximum rate at which glucose can be reabsorbed from the tubules. The threshold for glucose refers to the filtered load of glucose at which glucose first begins to be excreted in the urine.

Figure 27-4

Relations among the filtered load of glucose, the rate of glucose reabsorption by the renal tubules, and the rate of glucose excretion in the urine. The transport maximum is the maximum rate at which glucose can be reabsorbed from the tubules. The threshold for glucose refers to the filtered load of glucose at which glucose first begins to be excreted in the urine.

The glucose transport system in the proximal tubule is a good example. Normally, measurable glucose does not appear in the urine because essentially all the filtered glucose is reabsorbed in the proximal tubule. However, when the filtered load exceeds the capability of the tubules to reabsorb glucose, urinary excretion of glucose does occur.

In the adult human, the transport maximum for glucose averages about 375 mg/min, whereas the filtered load of glucose is only about 125 mg/min (GFR x plasma glucose = 125 ml/min x 1 mg/ml). With large increases in GFR and/or plasma glucose concentration that increase the filtered load of glucose above 375 mg/ min, the excess glucose filtered is not reabsorbed and passes into the urine.

Figure 27-4 shows the relation between plasma concentration of glucose, filtered load of glucose, tubular transport maximum for glucose, and rate of glucose loss in the urine. Note that when the plasma glucose concentration is 100 mg/100 mL and the filtered load is at its normal level, 125 mg/min, there is no loss of glucose in the urine. However, when the plasma concentration of glucose rises above about 200 mg/100 ml, increasing the filtered load to about 250 mg/min, a small amount of glucose begins to appear in the urine. This point is termed the threshold for glucose. Note that this appearance of glucose in the urine (at the threshold) occurs before the transport maximum is reached. One reason for the difference between threshold and transport maximum is that not all nephrons have the same transport maximum for glucose, and some of the nephrons excrete glucose before others have reached their transport maximum. The overall transport maximum for the kidneys, which is normally about 375 mg/min, is reached when all nephrons have reached their maximal capacity to reab-sorb glucose.

The plasma glucose of a healthy person almost never becomes high enough to cause excretion of glucose in the urine, even after eating a meal. However, in uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, plasma glucose may rise to high levels, causing the filtered load of glucose to exceed the transport maximum and resulting in urinary glucose excretion. Some of the important transport maximums for substances actively reabsorbed by the tubules are as follows:


Transport Maximum


375 mg/min


0.10 mM/min


0.06 mM/min

Amino acids

1.5 mM/min


15 mg/min


75 mg/min

Plasma protein

30 mg/min

Transport Maximums

for Substances That Are Actively

Secreted. Substances

that are actively secreted also

exhibit transport maximums as follows:


Transport Maximum


16 mg/min

Para-aminohippuric acid

80 mg/min

Substances That Are Actively Transported but Do Not Exhibit a Transport Maximum. The reason that actively transported solutes often exhibit a transport maximum is that the transport carrier system becomes saturated as the tubular load increases. Substances that are passively reabsorbed do not demonstrate a transport maximum because their rate of transport is determined by other factors, such as (1) the electrochemical gradient for diffusion of the substance across the membrane, (2) the permeability of the membrane for the substance, and (3) the time that the fluid containing the substance remains within the tubule. Transport of this type is referred to as gradient-time transport because the rate of transport depends on the electrochemical gradient and the time that the substance is in the tubule, which in turn depends on the tubular flow rate.

Some actively transported substances also have characteristics of gradient-time transport. An example is sodium reabsorption in the proximal tubule. The main reason that sodium transport in the proximal tubule does not exhibit a transport maximum is that other factors limit the reabsorption rate besides the maximum rate of active transport. For example, in the proximal tubules, the maximum transport capacity of the basolateral sodium-potassium ATPase pump is usually far greater than the actual rate of net sodium reabsorption. One of the reasons for this is that a significant amount of sodium transported out of the cell leaks back into the tubular lumen through the epithelial tight junctions. The rate at which this back-leak occurs depends on several factors, including (1) the permeability of the tight junctions and (2) the interstitial physical forces, which determine the rate of bulk flow reabsorption from the interstitial fluid into the peritubular capillaries. Therefore, sodium transport in the proximal tubules obeys mainly gradienttime transport principles rather than tubular maximum transport characteristics. This means that the greater the concentration of sodium in the proximal tubules, the greater its reabsorption rate. Also, the slower the flow rate of tubular fluid, the greater the percentage of sodium that can be reabsorbed from the proximal tubules.

In the more distal parts of the nephron, the epithelial cells have much tighter junctions and transport much smaller amounts of sodium. In these segments, sodium reabsorption exhibits a transport maximum similar to that for other actively transported substances. Furthermore, this transport maximum can be increased in response to certain hormones, such as aldosterone.

Passive Water Reabsorption by Osmosis Is Coupled Mainly to Sodium Reabsorption

When solutes are transported out of the tubule by either primary or secondary active transport, their concentrations tend to decrease inside the tubule while increasing in the renal interstitium. This creates a concentration difference that causes osmosis of water in the same direction that the solutes are transported, from the tubular lumen to the renal intersti-tium. Some parts of the renal tubule, especially the proximal tubule, are highly permeable to water, and water reabsorption occurs so rapidly that there is only a small concentration gradient for solutes across the tubular membrane.

A large part of the osmotic flow of water occurs through the so-called tight junctions between the epithelial cells as well as through the cells themselves. The reason for this, as already discussed, is that the junctions between the cells are not as tight as their name would imply, and they allow significant diffusion of water and small ions. This is especially true in the proximal tubules, which have a high permeability for water and a smaller but significant permeability to most ions, such as sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

As water moves across the tight junctions by osmosis, it can also carry with it some of the solutes, a process referred to as solvent drag. And because the reabsorption of water, organic solutes, and ions is coupled to sodium reabsorption, changes in sodium reabsorption significantly influence the reabsorption of water and many other solutes.

In the more distal parts of the nephron, beginning in the loop of Henle and extending through the col lecting tubule, the tight junctions become far less permeable to water and solutes, and the epithelial cells also have a greatly decreased membrane surface area. Therefore, water cannot move easily across the tubular membrane by osmosis. However, antidiuretic hormone (ADH) greatly increases the water permeability in the distal and collecting tubules, as discussed later.

Thus, water movement across the tubular epithelium can occur only if the membrane is permeable to water, no matter how large the osmotic gradient. In the proximal tubule, the water permeability is always high, and water is reabsorbed as rapidly as the solutes. In the ascending loop of Henle, water permeability is always low, so that almost no water is reabsorbed, despite a large osmotic gradient. Water permeability in the last parts of the tubules—the distal tubules, collecting tubules, and collecting ducts—can be high or low, depending on the presence or absence of ADH.

Reabsorption of Chloride, Urea, and Other Solutes by Passive Diffusion

When sodium is reabsorbed through the tubular epithelial cell, negative ions such as chloride are transported along with sodium because of electrical potentials. That is, transport of positively charged sodium ions out of the lumen leaves the inside of the lumen negatively charged, compared with the interstitial fluid. This causes chloride ions to diffuse passively through the paracellular pathway. Additional reabsorption of chloride ions occurs because of a chloride concentration gradient that develops when water is reabsorbed from the tubule by osmosis, thereby concentrating the chloride ions in the tubular lumen (Figure 27-5). Thus, the active reabsorption of sodium is closely coupled to the passive reabsorption of chloride by way of an electrical potential and a chloride concentration gradient.

Na+ reabsorption

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  • nahand bunce
    Which characteristic of active transport is the basis for the renal threshold and transport maximum?
    3 years ago
  • Jennie
    Why Na reabsorption have Gradiant time Transport?
    3 years ago
  • elinor jennings
    When the glucose transport maximum is reached, _______.?
    2 years ago
  • Abrha
    How transport maximum influences glucose transport?
    12 months ago
  • christine kutcher
    Why is renal threshold lower than transport maximum?
    5 months ago
  • christian
    What is transport maximum in physiology?
    3 months ago
  • adam watson
    Why does sodium have no transport maximum?
    2 months ago

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