Thus far, we have considered only the contribution of sodium chloride to the hyperosmotic renal medullary interstitium. However, urea contributes about 40 to 50 per cent of the osmolarity (500-600 mOsm/L) of the renal medullary interstitium when the kidney is forming a maximally concentrated urine. Unlike sodium chloride, urea is passively reabsorbed from the tubule. When there is water deficit and blood concentrations of ADH are high, large amounts of urea are passively reabsorbed from the inner medullary collecting ducts into the interstitium.
The mechanism for reabsorption of urea into the renal medulla is as follows: As water flows up the ascending loop of Henle and into the distal and cortical collecting tubules, little urea is reabsorbed because these segments are impermeable to urea (see Table 28-1). In the presence of high concentrations of ADH, water is reabsorbed rapidly from the cortical collecting tubule and the urea concentration increases rapidly because urea is not very permeant in this part of the tubule. Then, as the tubular fluid flows into the inner medullary collecting ducts, still more water reabsorption takes place, causing an even higher concentration of urea in the fluid. This high concentration of urea in the tubular fluid of the inner medullary collecting duct causes urea to diffuse out of the tubule into the renal interstitium. This diffusion is greatly facilitated by specific urea transporters. One of these urea transporters, UT-AI, is activated by ADH, increasing transport of urea out of the inner medullary collecting duct even more when ADH levels are elevated. The simultaneous movement of water and urea out of the inner medullary collecting ducts maintains a high concentration of urea in the tubular fluid and, eventually, in the urine, even though urea is being reabsorbed.
The fundamental role of urea in contributing to urine concentrating ability is evidenced by the fact that people who ingest a high-protein diet, yielding large amounts of urea as a nitrogenous "waste" product, can concentrate their urine much better than people whose protein intake and urea production are low. Malnutrition is associated with a low urea concentration in the medullary interstitium and considerable impairment of urine concentrating ability.
Recirculation of Urea from Collecting Duct to Loop of Henle Contributes to Hyperosmotic Renal Medulla. A person usually excretes about 20 to 50 per cent of the filtered load of urea. In general, the rate of urea excretion is determined mainly by two factors: (1) the concentration of urea in the plasma and (2) the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). In patients with renal disease who have large reductions of GFR, the plasma urea concentration increases markedly, returning the filtered urea load and urea excretion rate to the normal level (equal to the rate of urea production), despite the reduced GFR.
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This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.