Studies were designed to examine whether the thin ascending limb of Henle (tALH) decreases its luminal solute concentration by an active or a passive transport process. In all experiments isolated segments of rabbit tALH were perfused in vitro. When tubules were perfused with solutions identical to the bath, active transport of NaCl was excluded by the following: (a) osmolality of the collected fluid remained unchanged and the same as the bath. (b) net water reabsorption could not be demonstrated, and (c) transtubular potential difference was zero. Isotopic permeability coefficients (x 10(-5) cm s-1) were calculated from the disappearance rate of the respective isotope added to the perfusate. These values indicate that tALH is moderately permeable to [14C]urea (6.97 +/- 1.95) while having a higher permeability to 22Na (25.5 +/- 1.8) and [not readable: see text]Cl (117 +/- 9.1) than any other segment similarly studied. The influx (bath-to-lumen) isotopic permeabilities were not statistically different from the above efflux permeabilities. Osmotic water permeability was immeasurably small. When tALH were perfused with a 600 mosmol/liter solution predominantly of NaCl against a 600 mosmol/liter bath in which 50% of osmolality was NaCl and 50% urea (to simulate in vivo papillary interstitium), the collected fluid osmolality was decreased significantly below that of the bath (300 mosmol/liter/mm of tubule). The decrease in osmolality was due to greater efflux of NaCl as compared to influx of urea. We conclude that active transport of salt by the tALH was not detected by the experimental protocol of the current studies, and that the unique membrane characteristics of tALH allows for generation of osmotic gradients (lumen less concentrated than adjacent surroundings) on purely passive mechanisms when perfused with isosmolal salt solutions in a bath with appropriate salt and urea concentrations. These findings are consistent with the passive counter-current model previously proposed from this laboratory.
M Imai, J P Kokko