The Kidneys and Osmoregulatory Organs

Section Summary

The kidneys are the main osmoregulatory organs in mammalian systems; they function to filter blood and maintain the osmolarity of body fluids at 300 mOsm. They are surrounded by three layers and are made up internally of three distinct regions—the cortex, medulla, and pelvis.

The blood vessels that transport blood into and out of the kidneys arise from and merge with the aorta and inferior vena cava, respectively. The renal arteries branch out from the aorta and enter the kidney where they further divide into segmental, interlobar, arcuate, and cortical radiate arteries.

The nephron is the functional unit of the kidney, which actively filters blood and generates urine. The nephron is made up of the renal corpuscle and renal tubule. Cortical nephrons are found in the renal cortex, while juxtamedullary nephrons are found in the renal cortex close to the renal medulla. The nephron filters and exchanges water and solutes with two sets of blood vessels and the tissue fluid in the kidneys.

There are three steps in the formation of urine: glomerular filtration, which occurs in the glomerulus; tubular reabsorption, which occurs in the renal tubules; and tubular secretion, which also occurs in the renal tubules.