Increased glomerular permeability to negatively charged Ficoll relative to neutral Ficoll in rats.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


It is established that the glomerular filter sieves macromolecules based on their size, shape, and charge. Anionic proteins are thus retarded compared with their neutral or cationic counterparts. However, recent studies have indicated that charge effects are small, or even "anomalous," for polysaccharides. We therefore investigated the impact of charge on the glomerular permeability to polysaccharides by comparing sieving coefficients ({theta}; primary urine-to-plasma concentration ratio) for negatively charged, carboxymethylated (CM) FITC-Ficoll and FITC-dextran with their neutral counterparts. For these probes, {theta} were determined in anesthetized Wistar rats [269 ± 2.7 g (±SE; n = 36)], whose ureters were cannulated for urine sampling. The glomerular filtration rate was assessed using FITC-inulin. Polysaccharides were constantly infused, and after equilibration, urine was collected and a midpoint plasma sample was taken. Size and concentration determinations of the FITC-labeled polysaccharides were achieved by size-exclusion HPLC (HPSEC). For CM-Ficoll, {theta} was significantly increased (32 times at 55 Å) compared with that of uncharged Ficoll. A small increase in {theta} for CM-dextran compared with neutral dextran was also observed (1.8 times at 55 Å). In conclusion, negatively charged Ficoll relative to neutral Ficoll was found to be markedly hyperpermeable across the glomerular filter. Furthermore, negatively charged Ficoll was observed to be larger on HPSEC compared with its neutral counterpart of the same molecular weight. It is proposed that the introduction of negative charges in the "dendrimeric," cross-linked Ficoll molecule may alter its configuration, so as to make it more extended, and conceivably, more flexible, thereby increasing its glomerular permeability.

charge barrier; capillary permeability; macromolecules; fractional clearance; reflection coefficients

IT IS GENERALLY ACCEPTED THAT the glomerular filter discriminates among macromolecules based on their size, shape, and net charge (6, 8). With respect to charge, the permeability of anionic dextran sulfate was found to be reduced and that of cationic, diethylaminoethyl (DEAE) dextran to be increased compared with that of neutral dextran (6). However, more recent studies have indicated that sulfated dextran may be processed in the kidney (28) and desulfated during its renal passage (10), and furthermore, that it may bind to plasma proteins (17), and to membrane phospholipids (25), causing an artifactual reduction in the sieving coefficients ({theta}; i.e., the primary urine-to-plasma concentration ratios) of dextran sulfate. In addition, isolated glomerular basement membranes (GBM) have generally failed to show charge selectivity when probed with neutral and negatively charged Ficoll (7) or native (anionic) or cationized albumin (4). In line with these findings, Schaeffer et al. (26) were unable to find (in rats in vivo) any difference between glomerular {theta} to carboxymethylated (non-sulfated) dextran or to hydroxymethyl starch (HES), both negatively charged, and their neutral counterparts. Furthermore, the HES molecules showed lower {theta} for any given Stokes-Einstein (SE) radius (cf. Ficoll) than did dextran. It was concluded that the glomerular filtration barrier restricts the transport of polysaccharide macromolecules as a function of size and configuration whereas the presence or absence of negative charge does not play any role. Further supporting these results, Guimarães et al. (18) did not find a decrease in glomerular permeability to negatively charged, carboxymethylated (CM) Ficoll compared with uncharged Ficoll, confirming a previous observation by Greive et al. (16). Instead, they found a markedly increased glomerular permeability to CM-Ficoll.

In contrast to the apparent inability of the glomerular filter to discriminate between polysaccharides of different charge, there is ample evidence that, indeed, the glomerular filter selects globular proteins based on their charge. Thus anionic proteins are retarded compared with neutral and cationic proteins, as extensively reviewed by Comper and Glasgow (9) and Venturoli and Rippe (29). The reason the glomerular capillary wall exhibits low discrimination ability with respect to differently charged polysaccharides, while being able to separate proteins of different molecular charge, is obscure. However, one clue to this enigma could be the fact that carbohydrates exhibit an extended molecular configuration, with a larger SE radius, compared with that for globular proteins, for any given molecular mass (19, 29). Such an extended configuration, conceivably, generates a more flexible (compressible) structure and hence increases the molecule's permeability through the glomerular filtration barrier (29). Charge modification of a polysaccharide may lead to a further increase in molecular extension, favoring an increased flexibility and, thereby, an increased solute permeability.

Could the process of charge modification of the highly cross linked and "ellipsoid" molecules of Ficoll (19) lead to conformational alterations, with increased molecular extension, increasing their permeability compared with their uncharged counterparts? If so, would the linear, "random coil," structure of dextran make it less affected by conformational changes, and thereby less hyperpermeable, when negatively charged? The present study was performed to test this hypothesis by comparing glomerular sieving coefficients to negatively charged, CM-Ficoll and -dextran vs. their uncharged molecular equivalents.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Urology and Nephrology


  • charge barrier, macromolecules, reflection coefficients, fractional clearance, capillary permeability
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)F1083-F1089
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology: Renal, Fluid and Electrolyte Physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Publication categoryResearch

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Asgeirsson, D., 2009, Department of Nephrology, Lund University. 122 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

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