Electrotonic vascular signal conduction and nephron synchronization

D.J. Marsh, I. Toma, Olga Sosnovtseva, J. Peti-Peterdi, Niels-Henrik Holstein-Rathlou

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Marsh DJ, Toma I, Sosnovtseva OV, Peti-Peterdi J, Holstein-Rathlou NH. Electrotonic vascular signal conduction and nephron synchronization. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 296: F751-F761, 2009. First published December 30, 2008; doi:10.1152/ajprenal.90669.2008.-Tubuloglomerular feedback (TGF) and the myogenic mechanism control afferent arteriolar diameter in each nephron and regulate blood flow. Both mechanisms generate self-sustained oscillations, the oscillations interact, TGF modulates the frequency and amplitude of the myogenic oscillation, and the oscillations synchronize; a 5: 1 frequency ratio is the most frequent. TGF oscillations synchronize in nephron pairs supplied from a common cortical radial artery, as do myogenic oscillations. We propose that electrotonic vascular signal propagation from one juxtaglomerular apparatus interacts with similar signals from other nephrons to produce synchronization. We tested this idea in tubular-vascular preparations from mice. Vascular smooth muscle cells were loaded with a fluorescent voltage-sensitive dye; fluorescence intensity was measured with confocal microscopy. Perfusion of the thick ascending limb activated TGF and depolarized afferent arteriolar smooth muscle cells. The depolarization spread to the cortical radial artery and other afferent arterioles and declined with distance from the perfused juxtaglomerular apparatus, consistent with electrotonic vascular signal propagation. With a mathematical model of two coupled nephrons, we estimated the conductance of nephron coupling by fitting simulated vessel diameters to experimental data. With this value, we simulated nephron pairs to test for synchronization. In single-nephron simulations, the frequency of the TGF oscillation varied with nephron length. Coupling nephrons of different lengths forced TGF frequencies of both pair members to converge to a common value. The myogenic oscillations also synchronized, and the synchronization between the TGF and the myogenic oscillations showed an increased stability against parameter perturbations. Electronic vascular signal propagation is a plausible mechanism for nephron synchronization. Coupling increased the stability of the various oscillations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)F751-F761
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • renal autoregulation
  • coupled nephrons
  • myogenic mechanism
  • stability
  • tubuloglomerular feedback
  • coupled oscillators


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