Renal corpuscle of the sturgeon kidney: An ultrastructural, chemical dissection, and lectin-binding study



The sturgeon is an ancient species of fish that thrives in a wide range of ecological environments, from freshwater to seawater. Basic in this process of adaptation is the ability of the kidney to control fluid filtration and urine formation. However, the morphological basis of this process is mostly unknown. The aim of the present study was to use microdissection techniques (scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and lectin-binding histochemistry) to examine the structure of the renal corpuscle of the sturgeon Acipenser nacarii in order to reveal morphologic features that could be related to function, phylogeny, and habitat. The renal corpuscles are aligned along the intrarrenal arteries. The urinary pole shows a siphon-like neck segment (NS) in 92% of the nephrons, whose structural characteristics are different from those of other fish. The podocytes have cuboidal cellular bodies, intercellular contacts, and poorly developed cell processes. The podocyte glycocalyx contains N-acetylglucosamine and lacks sialic acid. The structural and lectin-binding patterns are similar to those found in the immature mammalian kidney. The glomerular basement membrane (GBM) is very thick and consists of three layers: a lamina rara externa, a lamina densa, and a thick subendothelial lamina. The latter contains tubular microfibrils, collagen fibers, and long mesangial cell processes. Frequently, the podocyte bodies attach directly to the GBM, and the area occupied by the filtration slits is very small. Furthermore, the GBM shows a glycosylation pattern different from that observed in most vertebrates. Contrary to what would be expected in sturgeons living in freshwater, the A. nacarii renal corpuscle morphology suggests a low glomerular filtration rate. Anat Rec Part A 272A: 563–573, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.