Review: The Juxtaglomerular Apparatus

The juxtaglomerular apparatus (JGA) is located between the afferent arteriole and the returning distal convoluted tubule of the same nephron. It is responsible for regulating both intrarenal (tubuloglomerular feedback) and extrarenal (renin-angiotensin-aldosterone) mechanisms necessary to maintain both renal and entire body volume status.

The three components of the JGA are the following:

(1) the juxtaglomerular cells of the afferent arteriole, synthesize and store renin, which is secreted in response to specific stimuli (e.g., low blood flow, decreased NaCl delivery). The juxtaglomerular cells could be considered the “effector arm” of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone axis.

(2) the macula densa, a region of the distal convoluted tubule characterized by tubular epithelial cells which are more densely-packed than in other regions of the nephron (and thereby leading to its characteristic appearance on light microscopy). The macula densa can be considered the “sensory arm” of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone axis in that these are the cells which sense decreased Na Cl delivery which determines downstream function. They are also involved in the mechanism of tubuloglomerular feedback.

(3) mesangial cells, which form connections via actin and microtubules which allow for selective vasoconstriction/vasodilation of the renal afferent and efferent arterioles with mesangial cell contraction.

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