Renal Physiology

Multiphoton imaging of renal tissues in vitro

János Peti-Peterdi


The highly inhomogeneous and light-scattering structure of living renal tissue makes the application of conventional imaging techniques more difficult compared with other parenchymal organs. On the other hand, key physiological processes of the kidney, such as regulation of glomerular filtration, hemodynamics, concentration, and dilution, involve complex interactions between multiple cell types and otherwise inaccessible structures that necessitate visual approaches. An ideal solution is multiphoton excitation fluorescence microscopy, a state-of-the-art imaging technique superior for deep optical sectioning of living tissue samples. Here, we review the basics and advantages of multiphoton microscopy and provide examples for its application in renal physiology using dissected cortical and medullary tissues in vitro. In combination with microperfusion techniques, the major functions of the juxtaglomerular apparatus, tubuloglomerular feedback and renin release, can be studied with high spatial and temporal resolution. Salt-dependent changes in macula densa cell volume, vasoconstriction of the afferent arteriole, and activity of an intraglomerular precapillary sphincter composed of renin granular cells are visualized in real time. Release and tissue activity of renin can be studied on the individual granule level. Imaging of the living inner medulla shows how interstitial cells interconnect cells of the vasa recta, loop of Henle, and collecting duct. In summary, multiphoton microscopy is an exciting new optical sectioning technique that has great potential for numerous future developments and is ideal for applications that require deep optical sectioning of living tissue samples.

  • multiphoton excitation
  • fluorescence microscopy
  • juxtaglomerular apparatus
  • tubuloglomerular feedback
  • renin release
  • inner medulla
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