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Kidney international

New insights into urea and glucose handling by the kidney, and the urine concentrating mechanism.


PMID 22456603

Abstract

The mechanism by which urine is concentrated in the mammalian kidney remains incompletely understood. Urea is the dominant urinary osmole in most mammals and may be concentrated a 100-fold above its plasma level in humans and even more in rodents. Several facilitated urea transporters have been cloned. The phenotypes of mice with deletion of the transporters expressed in the kidney have challenged two previously well-accepted paradigms regarding urea and sodium handling in the renal medulla but have provided no alternative explanation for the accumulation of solutes that occurs in the inner medulla. In this review, we present evidence supporting the existence of an active urea secretion in the pars recta of the proximal tubule and explain how it changes our views regarding intrarenal urea handling and UT-A2 function. The transporter responsible for this secretion could be SGLT1, a sodium-glucose cotransporter that also transports urea. Glucagon may have a role in the regulation of this secretion. Further, we describe a possible transfer of osmotic energy from the outer to the inner medulla via an intrarenal Cori cycle converting glucose to lactate and back. Finally, we propose that an active urea transporter, expressed in the urothelium, may continuously reclaim urea that diffuses out of the ureter and bladder. These hypotheses are all based on published findings. They may not all be confirmed later on, but we hope they will stimulate further research in new directions.