The nephrons form the functional unit of mammalian kidneys and they consist of the following parts, glomerulus, peritubular capillaries, Bowmanâ€™s capsule, proximal convoluted tubule (pct), distal convoluted tubule, descending loop of Henle, collecting ducts, and ascending loop of Henle. The glomerular filtrate passes through these tubules and via a countercurrent mechanism, it gets concentrated into the urinary product. The countercurrent system is a highly complex process driven by ionic exchanges and osmotic gradients. Since this is the central player in all the Hâº changes that occur in the nephric cells, it is important to have a schematic idea about the countercurrent process. When the glomerular filtrate enters the thick descending loop of Henle which is permeable to water molecules, the osmotic pressure increases and thereby concentrates the filtrate. However, the adjacent, thick ascending part of the loop of Henle, is impermeable to water and the filtrate gives up sodium chloride (NaCl) which goes into the peritubular capillaries. So here, the osmotic pressure decreases. Thus, the concentrated fluid in the descending limb is entered into the ascending loop which is positioned opposite to it. This difference in concentration between the interstitial fluid of the ascending and descending arms of the loop of Henle creates a countercurrent effect.
Hâº ion changes in the kidney:
The release of hydrogen (Hâº) ions and reuptake of bicarbonate (HCOâ‚ƒ-) occurs in the thick ascending loop of Henle, proximal convoluted tubule (PCT),and early distal convoluted tubule (DCT) with intercalated cells. All these parts secrete hydrogen ions into the tubular fluid by the Naâº/Hâº counter transporter, located on the luminal membrane. The phenomenon of hydrogen ion secretion and sodium ion transport into the tubular cells is coupled with each other. The Na+ gradient provides the necessary transportation energy that drives the hydrogen ions to move against a concentration gradient. The sodium ions are absorbed by the peritubular capillaries and the Naâº/Kâº ATPase at the basolateral side creates a sodium iongradient. On the other hand, carbon dioxide (COâ‚‚) diffuses into the tubular cells and combines with water to form Hâ‚‚COâ‚ƒ in the presence of carbonic anhydrase. A question might arise here about the source of this COâ‚‚ molecule. The glomerular filters the bicarbonate (HCOâ‚ƒ-) and since it is not desirable to lose too much bicarbonate ion through urine, it needs to be reabsorbed. However, HCOâ‚ƒ- is unable to cross the luminal surface and hence its reuptake cannot occur directly. Now the Hâº ions that enter the tubular or luminal fluid reacts with the HCOâ‚ƒ- to form Hâ‚‚COâ‚ƒ. The Hâ‚‚COâ‚ƒ molecule breaks into Hâ‚‚O and COâ‚‚. The COâ‚‚ molecule enters the tubular cell, where it combines with water and forms Hâ‚‚COâ‚ƒ. This Hâ‚‚COâ‚ƒ then dissociates into HCOâ‚ƒ- and Hâº ions. The movement of the bicarbonate ion or HCOâ‚ƒ- is then down the concentration gradient from the tubular cells to the renal interstitial fluid and subsequently into the peritubular capillaries. An HCOâ‚ƒ- enters the blood for every H+leaving the cell.
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