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A population of mitochondrion-rich cells in the pars recta of mouse kidney

Forbes, M. S., Thornhill, B. A., Galarreta, C. I., Chevalier, R. L.
Cell and tissue research 2016 v.363 no.3 pp. 791-803
adults, antigens, atrophy, epithelial cells, humans, mice, microvilli, mitochondria, nitroblue tetrazolium, proximal tubules, rats, transgenic animals, vimentin, weaning
Following perfusion of adult mouse kidney with a solution of nitroblue tetrazolium (NBT), certain epithelial cells in the pars recta (S3) segments of proximal tubules react to form cytoplasmic deposits of blue diformazan particles. Such cells are characterized by dark cytoplasm, small and often elliptical nuclei, elaborate, process-bearing profiles, and abundant mitochondria. The atypical epithelial cells display the additional characteristic of immunoreactivity for a wide spectrum of antigens, including mesenchymal proteins such as vimentin. Though present in kidneys of untreated or sham-operated animals, they are particularly evident under experimental conditions such as unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO), appearing in both contralateral and obstructed kidneys over the course of a week's duration, but disappearing from the obstructed kidney as it undergoes the profound atrophy attributable to deterioration of the population of its proximal tubules. The cells do not appear in neonatal kidneys, even those undergoing UUO, but begin to be recognizable soon after weaning (28 days). It is possible that diformazan-positive cells in the mouse S3 tubular segment constitute a resident population of cells that can replenish or augment the tubule. Although somewhat similar cells, with dark cytoplasm and vimentin expression, have been described in human, rat, and transgenic mouse kidney (Smeets et al. in J Pathol 229: 645–659, 2013; Berger et al. in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111: 1533–1538, 2014), those cells—known as “scattered tubule cells” or “proximal tubule rare cells”— differ from the S3-specific cells in that they are present throughout the entire proximal tubule, often lack a brush border, and have only a few mitochondria.