Urine formation in kidney

Urine formation is a blood cleansing function. Normally, about 1,300 mL of blood (26% of cardiac output) enters the kidneys. Kidneys excrete the unwanted substances along with water from the blood as urine. Normal urinary output is 1 L/day to 1.5 L/day.

Processes of Urine Formation

When blood passes through glomerular capillaries, the plasma is filtered into the Bowman capsule. This process is called glomerular filtration. Filtrate from Bowman capsule passes through the tubular portion of the nephron. While passing through the tubule, the filtrate undergoes various changes both in quality and in quantity. Many wanted substances like glucose, amino acids, water and electrolytes are reabsorbed from the tubules. This process is called tubular reabsorption. And, some unwanted substances are secreted into the tubule from peritubular blood vessels. This process is called tubular secretion or excretion. Thus, the urine formation includes three processes:

  • Glomerular filtration
  • Tubular reabsorption
  • Tubular secretion

Among these three processes filtration is the function of the glomerulus. Reabsorption and secretion are the functions of tubular portion of the nephron.

Composition and properties of Urine




Glomerular filtration is the process by which the blood is filtered while passing through the glomerular capillaries by filtration membrane. It is the first process of urine formation. The structure of filtration membrane is well suited for filtration.

Filtration Membrane

Filtration membrane is formed by three layers:

1. Glomerular capillary membrane

2. Basement membrane

3. Visceral layer of Bowman capsule.

Glomerular capillary membrane

Glomerular capillary membrane is formed by single layer of endothelial cells, which are attached to the basement membrane. The capillary membrane has many pores called fenestrae or filtration pores with a diameter of 0.1 μ.

Basement membrane

Basement membrane of glomerular capillaries and the basement membrane of visceral layer of Bowman capsule fuse together. The fused basement membrane separates the endothelium of glomerular capillary and the epithelium of visceral layer of Bowman capsule.

Visceral layer of Bowman capsule

This layer is formed by a single layer of flattened epithelial cells resting on a basement membrane. Each cell is connected with the basement membrane by cytoplasmic extensions called pedicles or feet. Epithelial cells with pedicles are called podocytes. Pedicles interdigitate leaving small cleftlike spaces in between. The cleftlike space is called slit pore or filtration slit. Filtration takes place through these slit pores.

Process of Glomerular Filtration

When blood passes through glomerular capillar ies, the plasma is filtered into the Bowman capsule. All the substances of plasma are filtered except the plasma proteins. The filtered fluid is called glomerular filtrate.


Glomerular filtration is called ultrafiltration because even the minute particles are filtered. But, the plasma proteins are not filtered due to their large molecular size. The protein molecules are larger than the slit pores present in the endothelium of capillaries. Thus, the glomerular filtrate contains all the substances present in plasma except the plasma proteins.


Glomerular filtrate is collected in experimental animals by micropuncture technique. This technique involves insertion of a micropipette into the Bowman capsule and aspiration of filtrate.


Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is defined as the total quantity of filtrate formed in all the nephrons of both the kidneys in the given unit of time. Normal GFR is 125 mL/minute or about 180 L/day.


Filtration fraction is the fraction (portion) of the renal plasma, which becomes the filtrate. It is the ratio between renal plasma flow and glomerular filtration rate.

It is expressed in percentage.


Filtration fraction = × 100

Renal plasma flow

125 mL/min

= × 100

650 mL/min

= 19.2%.

Normal filtration fraction varies from 15% to 20%.


Pressures, which determine the GFR are:

1. Glomerular capillary pressure

2. Colloidal osmotic pressure in the glomeruli

3. Hydrostatic pressure in the Bowman capsule.

These pressures determine the GFR by either favoring or opposing the filtration.

1. Glomerular Capillary Pressure

Glomerular capillary pressure is the pressure exerted by the blood in glomerular capillaries. It is about 60 mm Hg and, varies between 45 and 70 mm Hg. Glomerular capillary pressure is the highest capillary pressure in the body. This pressure favors glomerular filtration.

2. Colloidal Osmotic Pressure

It is the pressure exerted by plasma proteins in the glomeruli. The plasma proteins are not filtered through the glome rular capillaries and remain in the glomerular capillaries. These proteins develop the colloidal osmotic pressure, which is about 25 mm Hg. It opposes glomerular filtration.

3. Hydrostatic Pressure in Bowman Capsule

It is the pressure exerted by the filtrate in Bowman capsule. It is also called capsular pressure. It is about 15 mm Hg. It also opposes glomerular filtration.

Net Filtration Pressure

Net filtration pressure is the balance between pressure favoring filtration and pressures opposing filtration. It is otherwise known as effective filtration pressure or essential filtration pressure. Net filtration pressure is about 20 mm Hg and, it varies between 15 and 20 mm Hg.

Starling Hypothesis and Starling Forces

Determination of net filtration pressure is based on Starling hypothesis. Starling hypothesis states that the net filtration through capillary membrane is proportional to hydrostatic pressure difference across the membrane minus oncotic pressure difference. Hydrostatic pressure within the glomerular capillaries is the glomerular capillary pressure. All the pressures involved in determination of filtration are called Starling forces.


Filtration coefficient is the GFR in terms of net filtration pressure. It is the GFR per mm Hg of net filtration pressure. For example, when GFR is 125 mL/min and net filtration pressure is 20 mm Hg.


1. Renal Blood Flow

It is the most important factor that is necessary for glomerular filtration. GFR is directly proportional to renal blood flow. Normal blood flow to both the kidneys is 1,300 mL/minute. The renal blood flow itself is controlled by autoregulation. Refer previous chapter for details.

2. Tubuloglomerular Feedback

Tubuloglomerular feedback is the mechanism that regulates GFR through renal tubule and macula densa. Macula densa of juxtaglomerular apparatus in the terminal portion of thick ascending limb is sensitive to the sodium chloride in the tubular fluid. When the glomerular filtrate passes through the terminal portion of thick ascending segment, macula densa acts like a sensor. It detects the concentration of sodium chloride in the tubular fluid and accordingly alters the glomerular blood flow and GFR. Macula densa detects the sodium chloride concentration via Na+K+ 2Clcotransporter (NKCC2).

3. Glomerular Capillary Pressure

Glomerular filtration rate is directly proportional to glomerular capillary pressure. Normal glomerular capillary pressure is 60 mm Hg. When glomerular capillary pressure increases, the GFR also increases. Capillary pressure, in turn depends upon the renal blood flow and arterial blood pressure.

4. Colloidal Osmotic Pressure

Glomerular filtration rate is inversely proportional to colloidal osmotic pressure, which is exerted by plasma proteins in the glomerular capillary blood. Normal colloidal osmotic pressure is 25 mm Hg. When colloidal osmotic pressure increases as in the case of dehydration or increased plasma protein level GFR decreases. When colloidal osmotic pressure is low as in hypoproteinemia, GFR increases.

5. Hydrostatic Pressure in Bowman Capsule

GFR is inversely proportional to this. Normally, it is 15 mm Hg. When the hydrostatic pressure increases in the Bowman capsule, it decreases GFR. Hydrostatic pressure in Bowman capsule increases in conditions like obstruction of urethra and edema of kidney beneath renal capsule.

6. Constriction of Afferent Arteriole

Constriction of afferent arteriole reduces the blood flow to the glomerular capillaries, which in turn reduces GFR.

7. Constriction of Efferent Arteriole

If efferent arteriole is constricted, initially the GFR increases because of stagnation of blood in the capillaries. Later when all the substances are filtered from this blood, further filtration does not occur. It is because, the efferent arteriolar constriction prevents outflow of blood from glomerulus and no fresh blood enters the glomerulus for filtration.

8. Systemic Arterial Pressure

Renal blood flow and GFR are not affected as long as the mean arterial blood pressure is in between 60 and 180 mm Hg due to the autoregulatory mechanism. Variation in pressure above 180 mm Hg or below 60 mm Hg affects the renal blood flow and GFR level increases above 180 mg/dL. Glycosuria (presence of glucose in urine) may be the first indicator of diabetes mellitus.

2. Protein

Presence of excess protein (proteinuria) particularly albumin (albuminuria) in urine indicates renal diseases. Urinary excretion of albumin in a normal healthy adult.

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