Newborns are less able to concentrate urine than adults are. With development of the concentrating system and a hypertonic medullary interstitium, there is a need to generate intracellular osmolytes such as sorbitol, which is produced in a reaction catalyzed by the enzyme aldose reductase. We sought to discriminate between two possible mechanisms of aldose reductase induction during development: (a) a response to an osmotic stimulus generated by the concentrating mechanism; or (b) part of the genetic program for development of the kidney. We measured the change in aldose reductase mRNA and activity in terminal inner medullary collecting ducts (IMCDs) microdissected from Sprague-Dawley rats during the first month of life. Aldose reductase mRNA was assayed by Northern analysis of total RNA from inner medulla and by detection of the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) product obtained from single IMCDs using aldose reductase-specific primers. Aldose reductase activity was measured in IMCDs taken from the same rats using a fluorescent microassay. Newborn rat IMCDs had minimal aldose reductase mRNA or activity, however mRNA was readily detected in IMCDs from rats older than 3 d of age, with peak expression occurring at 1-3 wk of age before decreasing to adult levels. In contrast, the mRNA level for a housekeeping metabolic enzyme, malate dehydrogenase, did not change during maturation. Aldose reductase enzyme activity was readily detectable by 6 d of age, peaked at 20 d, then decreased to adult levels. Urine osmolality remained < 600 mosmol/kg until 16 d, then increased to > 1,100 mosmol/kg after 20 d. Thus, aldose reductase mRNA and activity increased before urinary osmolality reached 870 mosmol/kg. Because urine osmolality may not be indicative of inner medullary osmolality and because mother's milk may provide excessive free water to the pups under 3 wk of age, half of the animals in several litters were separated from their mothers for 1 d and inner medullary osmolality, in addition to urine osmolality, was measured by vapor pressure osmometry, while aldose reductase mRNA was assessed densitometrically in IMCDs after RT-PCR. Although fluid restriction resulted in a near doubling of urine osmolality and a tendency towards increased aldose reductase mRNA, there was no consistently significant increase in aldose reductase mRNA or inner medullary osmolality during the first 13 d of life compared to the suckling animals. On the other hand, 2-3-wk-old rats showed significant increases in aldose reductase mRNA, accompanied by increases in inner medullary osmolality, after fluid restriction. Thus, the dissociation between the increases in aldose reductase expression and inner medullary hyperosmolality indicates that the maturational induction of the aldose reductase gene is not a consequence of osmotic stimulation, but rather, part of the developmental program of the kidney.
G J Schwartz, B J Zavilowitz, A D Radice, A Garcia-Perez, J M Sands