A mathematical model of the urine concentrating mechanism in the rat renal medulla. I. Formulation and base-case results.
A new, region-based mathematical model of the urine concentrating mechanism of the rat renal medulla was used to investigate the significance of transport and structural properties revealed in anatomic studies. The model simulates preferential interactions among tubules and vessels by representing concentric regions that are centered on a vascular bundle in the outer medulla (OM) and on a collecting duct cluster in the inner medulla (IM). Particularly noteworthy features of this model include highly urea-permeable and water-impermeable segments of the long descending limbs and highly urea-permeable ascending thin limbs. Indeed, this is the first detailed mathematical model of the rat urine concentrating mechanism that represents high long-loop urea permeabilities and that produces a substantial axial osmolality gradient in the IM. That axial osmolality gradient is attributable to the increasing urea concentration gradient. The model equations, which are based on conservation of solutes and water and on standard expressions for transmural transport, were solved to steady state. Model simulations predict that the interstitial NaCl and urea concentrations in adjoining regions differ substantially in the OM but not in the IM. In the OM, active NaCl transport from thick ascending limbs, at rates inferred from the physiological literature, resulted in a concentrating effect such that the intratubular fluid osmolality of the collecting duct increases ~2.5 times along the OM. As a result of the separation of urea from NaCl and the subsequent mixing of that urea and NaCl in the interstitium and vasculature of the IM, collecting duct fluid osmolality further increases by a factor of ~1.55 along the IM.
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