Physiology and Pathophysiology of Compensatory Adaptations of a Solitary Functioning Kidney

Zoe McArdle, Michiel F. Schreuder, Karen M. Moritz, Kate M. Denton, Reetu R. Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Children born with a solitary functioning kidney (SFK) have an increased risk of hypertension and kidney disease from early in adulthood. In response to a reduction in kidney mass, the remaining kidney undergoes compensatory kidney growth. This is associated with both an increase in size of the kidney tubules and the glomeruli and an increase in single nephron glomerular filtration rate (SNGFR). The compensatory hypertrophy and increase in filtration at the level of the individual nephron results in normalization of total glomerular filtration rate (GFR). However, over time these same compensatory mechanisms may contribute to kidney injury and hypertension. Indeed, approximately 50% of children born with a SFK develop hypertension by the age of 18 and 20–40% require dialysis by the age of 30. The mechanisms that result in kidney injury are only partly understood, and early biomarkers that distinguish those at an elevated risk of kidney injury are needed. This review will outline the compensatory adaptations to a SFK, and outline how these adaptations may contribute to kidney injury and hypertension later in life. These will be based largely on the mechanisms we have identified from our studies in an ovine model of SFK, that implicate the renal nitric oxide system, the renin angiotensin system and the renal nerves to kidney disease and hypertension associated with SFK. This discussion will also evaluate current, and speculate on next generation, prognostic factors that may predict those children at a higher risk of future kidney disease and hypertension.

Original languageEnglish
Article number725
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2020


  • compensatory hypertrophy
  • glomerular hyperfiltration
  • nitric oxide
  • renal sympathetic nerves
  • renin angiotensin system
  • solitary functioning kidney

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