Macula densa

Daisuke Nakano 
Department of Pharmacology, Kagawa University, Japan

In 1889, Golgi (1) initially reported that Henle’s loop regularly returns to its originating glomerulus and makes close anatomical contact with the vascular pole. At the site of contact, 5–15 cells are packed more closely to each other than at adjacent sections of the distal tubule. In 1933, Karl Zimmermann (2) named this portion of epithelium with prominent nuclei “macula densa.” Today, macula densa cells are well known as the tubular component of juxtaglomerular apparatusand control tubuloglomerular feedback (TGF). In the 1930s, given the observation of the closeanatomical contact, it was hypothesized that juxtaglomerular apparatus, including macula densa, affects tonus of afferent/efferent arterioles (3). In 1964, K. Thurau and J. Schnermann (4) demonstrated the function of macula densa using a micropuncture technique. They observed thatan increase in luminal Na+ concentration at the tubules near macula densa reduced GFR in a renin-dependent manner, accounting for the term TGF. Thus, over a period of 70 years, the role of the macula densa, in a variety of important functions, was described.


  1. Golgi C. Annotazioni intorno all’ Istologia dei reni dell’ uomo e dialtri mammiferi e sull’ Istogenesi dei canalicoli oriniferi. Atti R.Accad Lincei Rend.1889; 5: 334-342.
  2. Zimmermann K. Ueber den Bau des Glomerulus der Saeugerniere: Weittere Mitteilunger. Ztschr Mikrosk Anat Forsch. 1933;32:176-278.
  3. Goormaghtigh N. L’appareil neuro-myo-artériel juxtaglomérulaire du rein: ses réactions en pathologie et ses rapports avec le tube urinifère, Compt Rend Soc Biol, 1937;129:293-296.
  4. Thurau K und Schermann J. Die Natriumkonzentration an den Macula densa-Zellen als regulierender Faktor für das Glomerulumfiltrat (Mikropunctionsversuche). Klinische Wochenschrift. 1964;43:410-413.

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