Morphology of rabbit collecting duct.
Recently the assumed structural and functional homogeneity of the collecting duct (CD) has been questioned. The objective of this study was to determine if heterogeneity occurs in luminal surface membrane structure or in cytoplasmic configuration of cells in the collecting duct or both. Straight segments of cortical and medullary CD were examined in perfusion-fixed rabbit kidneys with scanning electron microscopy (SEM), light (LM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Principal cells were the most abundant cells in all CD regions; intercalated cells comprised 37% of the cell population on the cortex, 18% in the outer medulla, and less than 1% in the inner medulla. SEM revealed two surface patterns among the ciliated principal cells: 1, located in the cortex and outer medulla, with few surface microvilli, and 2, located in the inner medulla, with abundant microvilli. Intercalated cells exhibited four distinctive luminal surface configurations: I, numerous short microvilli; II, both short and elongate microvilli; III, microplicae alone; and IV, both microvilli and microplicae. Intercalated cells with patterns I and II were predominant in the cortex, while cells with patterns III and IV were most common at the corticomedullary junction. TEM confirmed that marked variation existed in cytoplasmic structures of both principal and intercalated cells. These findings may either indicate the presence of several specific types of principal and intercalated cells or reflect different functional states of the principal and intercalated cells. Regardless of their significance, their presence must be considered in studies seeking to establish precise structural-functional relationships in this region of the rabbit renal tubule.
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