Significance of Proximal Tubule Reabsorption

Approximately 65% of the salt and water in the original glomerular ultrafiltrate is reabsorbed across the proximal tubule and returned to the vascular system. The volume of tubular fluid remaining is reduced accordingly, but this fluid is still isosmotic with the blood, which has a concentration of 300 mOsm. This is because the plasma membranes in the proximal tubule are freely permeable to water, so that water and salt are removed in proportionate amounts.

An additional smaller amount of salt and water (about 20%) is returned to the vascular system by reabsorption through the descending limb of the loop of Henle. This reabsorption, like that in the proximal tubule, occurs constantly, regardless of the person's state of hydration. Unlike reabsorption in later regions of the nephron (distal tubule and collecting duct), it is not subject to hormonal regulation. Therefore, approximately 85% of the filtered salt and water is reabsorbed in a constant fashion in the early regions of the nephron (proximal tubule and loop of Henle). This reabsorption is very costly in terms of energy expenditures, accounting for as much as 6% of the calories consumed by the body at rest.

Since 85% of the original glomerular ultrafiltrate is reabsorbed in the early regions of the nephron, only 15% of the initial filtrate remains to enter the distal convoluted tubule and collecting duct. This is still a large volume of fluid—15% x GFR (180 L per day) = 27 L per day—that must be reabsorbed to varying degrees in accordance with the body's state of hydration. This "fine tuning" of the percentage of reabsorption and urine volume is accomplished by the action of hormones on the later regions of the nephron.

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