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Abstract

Renal tubular cells and segments isolated by a trypsin, pepsin, pronase E digestion procedure were studied with scanning electron microscopy. The basal and lateral surfaces of S1, S2, S3 proximal tubular (PT) segments, descending and ascending thin limbs of Henle (TL), distal ascending thick limb of Henle, or distal straight tubule (DST) and distal convoluted tubule (DCT) segments, connecting tubules (CNT), and collecting ducts (CD) were identified and characterized. The basal processes of the S1 and S2 PT cells were fan shaped, were oriented in a circumferential direction, and terminated in microvilli at the basement membrane. S3 PT cells had microvillous basal processes mainly on the lateral edges of the cells. The basal processes of DST and DCT were similar to PT in orientation but terminated on the basement membrane with flattened, thin attachments. The long-loop descending TL and the ascending TL exhibited distinctive interdigitating cell processes. TL segments with simple contours were present in smaller numbers and were characteristic of short-loop descending limbs. CNT showed some cells with basal surfaces resembling DCT cells and others resembling CD cells. Both cortical and medullary CD segments exhibited intercalated cells with round basal contours and a sparse pattern of basal infolding clefts. The cortical CD principal cells revealed a much more elaborate mosaic of plicae, clefts, and microvilli than those of the medullary CD. These observations extend the previous knowledge gained from transmission electron microscopy and assist in the interpretation of that knowledge.