The Vertebrate Kidney

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1.1 Introduction

The vertebrate kidney is an important organ that serves vital roles in waste excretion, osmoregulation, metabolites reabsorption, maintenance of acid-base balance and even hormone secretion. Nephron is the basic functional unit of a kidney which consists of a blood filter (the glomerulus) and renal tubules that joins to a collecting duct. Nephron filters blood plasma and the filtrate is further modified and refined in the tubules via selective solute reabsorption and secretion. The consequential “unwanted” waste is drained into collecting ducts and excreted (Reilly 2000; Jacobsen, 1981).

Through the course of mammalian development, a series of three kidney structures arises sequentially from the intermediate mesoderm (IM). These include the pronephros, the mesonephros and the metanephros. The pronephros is the first embryonic kidney. Degeneration of the pronephros is accompanied by the formation of a second kidney, the mesonephros. The mesonephros functions transiently until the development of the metanephros, after which it will rapidly degenerate leaving the metanephros to serve as the adult kidney in higher vertebrates including birds, reptiles, and mammals. Lower vertebrates like fish never form a metanephros and instead utilize the mesonephros during adult life. Despite this difference, each kidney form is comprised of nephrons that exhibit a similar composition (Wingert & Davidson, 2008; Dressler, 2006).

Extensive study in mammalian model has

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