The terminal part of the inner medullary collecting duct (terminal IMCD) is unique among collecting duct segments in part because its permeability to urea is regulated by vasopressin. The urea permeability can rise to extremely high levels (greater than 100 x 10(-5) cm/s) in response to vasopressin. Recent studies in isolated perfused IMCD segments have established that the rapid movement of urea across the tubule epithelium occurs via a specialized urea transporter, presumably an intrinsic membrane protein, present in both the apical and basolateral membranes. This urea transporter has properties similar to those of the urea transporters in mammalian erythrocytes and in toad urinary bladder, namely, inhibition by phloretin, inhibition by urea analogues, saturation kinetics in equilibrium-exchange experiments, and regulation by vasopressin. The urea transport pathway is distinct from and independent of the vasopressin-regulated water channel. The increase in transepithelial urea transport in response to vasopressin is mediated by adenosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate and is associated with an increase in the urea permeability of the apical membrane. However, little is known about the physical events associated with the activation or insertion of urea transporters in the apical membrane. Because of the importance of this transporter to the urinary concentrating mechanism, efforts toward understanding its molecular structure and the molecular basis of its regulation appear to be justified.
- Copyright © 1990 the American Physiological Society