Multinephron dynamics on the renal vascular network

Donald J. Marsh, Anthony S. Wexler, Alexey Brazhe, Dmitri E. Postnov, Olga V. Sosnovtseva, Niels Henrik Holstein-Rathlou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Tubuloglomerular feedback (TGF) and the myogenic mechanism combine in each nephron to regulate blood flow and glomerular filtration rate. Both mechanisms are nonlinear, generate self-sustained oscillations, and interact as their signals converge on arteriolar smooth muscle, forming a regulatory ensemble. Ensembles may synchronize. Smooth muscle cells in the ensemble depolarize periodically, generating electrical signals that propagate along the vascular network. We developed a mathematical model of a nephron-vascular network, with 16 versions of a single nephron model containing representations of both mechanisms in the regulatory ensemble, to examine the effects of network structure on nephron synchronization. Symmetry, as a property of a network, facilitates synchronization. Nephrons received blood from a symmetric electrically conductive vascular tree. Symmetry was created by using identical nephron models at each of the 16 sites and symmetry breaking by varying nephron length. The symmetric model achieved synchronization of all elements in the network. As little as 1% variation in nephron length caused extensive desynchronization, although synchronization was maintained in small nephron clusters. In-phase synchronization predominated among nephrons separated by one or three vascular nodes and antiphase synchronization for five or seven nodes of separation. Nephron dynamics were irregular and contained low-frequency fluctuations. Results are consistent with simultaneous blood flow measurements in multiple nephrons. An interaction between electrical signals propagated through the network to cause synchronization; variation in vascular pressure at vessel bifurcations was a principal cause of desynchronization. The results suggest that the vasculature supplies blood to nephrons but also engages in robust information transfer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


  • Mathematical models
  • Myogenic mechanism
  • Network theory
  • Renal autoregulation
  • Tubuloglomerular feedback

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Urology


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