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Discover the intricate workings of the nephron - the fundamental unit of the kidney responsible for filtration, reabsorption, and secretion - and unlock the secrets behind its crucial role in maintaining homeostasis.

USMLE Guide: Nephron


The article titled "Nephron" provides a comprehensive overview of the structure and function of the nephron, which is the basic functional unit of the kidney. This USMLE guide aims to summarize the key points covered in the article and help you understand the important concepts related to the nephron for your USMLE exam.

Nephron Structure

  • The nephron is composed of two main parts: the renal corpuscle and the renal tubule.
  • The renal corpuscle consists of the glomerulus and Bowman's capsule, which function in the filtration of blood.
  • The renal tubule is divided into several segments, including the proximal convoluted tubule, loop of Henle, distal convoluted tubule, and collecting duct.

Nephron Function

  1. Filtration: Blood enters the glomerulus, where hydrostatic pressure forces fluid and solutes to pass through the glomerular filtration barrier into Bowman's capsule.
  2. Reabsorption: Most of the filtered fluid is reabsorbed back into the bloodstream in the renal tubule. This process occurs primarily in the proximal convoluted tubule, where essential substances (e.g., glucose, amino acids) and water are reabsorbed.
  3. Secretion: Certain substances (e.g., drugs, hydrogen ions) are actively secreted from the blood into the renal tubule, enhancing the elimination of waste products.
  4. Concentration: The loop of Henle establishes an osmotic gradient, allowing for the concentration of urine and reabsorption of water in the collecting duct.

Regulation of Nephron Function

  • The function of the nephron is regulated by various hormonal and local mechanisms, including:
    • Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH): Released by the posterior pituitary gland, ADH increases water reabsorption in the collecting duct, reducing urine output.
    • Aldosterone: Secreted by the adrenal glands, aldosterone promotes sodium reabsorption and potassium secretion in the distal convoluted tubule and collecting duct.
    • Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System (RAAS): Activation of this system leads to increased sodium and water reabsorption to maintain blood pressure and volume.
    • Atrial Natriuretic Peptide (ANP): Released by the atria of the heart, ANP promotes sodium and water excretion, thereby reducing blood volume and pressure.

Clinical Significance

  • Various renal diseases and disorders can affect nephron function, leading to conditions such as:
    • Glomerulonephritis: Inflammation of the glomeruli, which can impair filtration.
    • Acute Kidney Injury: Sudden loss of kidney function due to various causes, resulting in reduced filtration and urine production.
    • Diabetic Nephropathy: Kidney damage caused by long-standing diabetes, leading to impaired filtration and proteinuria.
    • Renal Tubular Acidosis: A group of disorders characterized by impaired acid-base regulation in the renal tubules.
  • Understanding the structure and function of the nephron is crucial for diagnosing and managing these renal conditions.


The nephron is a fundamental unit of the kidney responsible for filtration, reabsorption, secretion, and concentration of urine. It plays a vital role in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. This USMLE guide has summarized the key points from the article "Nephron" to help you grasp the essential concepts related to the nephron for your USMLE exam.

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