Paracellular transport and energy utilization in the renal tubule

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Purpose of review

Paracellular transport across the tight junction is a general mechanism for transepithelial transport of solutes in epithelia, including the renal tubule. However, why paracellular transport evolved, given the existence of a highly versatile system for transcellular transport, is unknown.

Recent findings

Recent studies have identified the paracellular channel, claudin-2, that is responsible for paracellular reabsorption of sodium in the proximal renal tubule. Knockout of claudin-2 in mice impairs proximal sodium and fluid reabsorption but is compensated by upregulation of sodium reabsorption in the loop of Henle. This occurs at the expense of increased renal oxygen consumption, hypoxia of the outer medulla and increased susceptibility to ischemic kidney injury.


Paracellular transport can be viewed as a mechanism to exploit the potential energy in existing electrochemical gradients to drive passive transepithelial transport without consuming additional energy. In this way, it enhances the efficiency of energy utilization by transporting epithelia.

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