NYMC Faculty Publications

Emerging Insights Into Glomerular Vascular Pole and Microcirculation

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Journal of the American Society of Nephrology

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The glomerular vascular pole is the gate for the afferent and efferent arterioles and mesangial cells and a frequent location of peripolar cells with an unclear function. It has been studied in definitive detail for >30 years, and functionally interrogated in the context of signal transduction from the macula densa to the mesangial cells and afferent arteriolar smooth muscle cells from 10 to 20 years ago. Two recent discoveries shed additional light on the vascular pole, with possibly far-reaching implications. One, which uses novel serial section electron microscopy, reveals a shorter capillary pathway between the basins of the afferent and efferent arterioles. Such a pathway, when patent, may short-circuit the multitude of capillaries in the glomerular tuft. Notably, this shorter capillary route is enclosed within the glomerular mesangium. The second study used anti-Thy1.1-induced mesangiolysis and intravital microscopy to unequivocally establish the long-suspected contractile function of mesangial cells, which have the ability to change the geometry and curvature of glomerular capillaries. These studies led me to hypothesize the existence of a glomerular perfusion rheostat, in which the shorter path periodically fluctuates between being more and less patent. This action reduces or increases blood flow through the entire glomerular capillary tuft. A corollary is that the GFR is a net product of balance between the states of capillary perfusion, and that deviations from the balanced state would increase or decrease GFR. Taken together, these studies may pave the way to a more profound understanding of glomerular microcirculation under basal conditions and in progression of glomerulopathies.