Both kidneys of 12 mature female pigs received either a single dose of 9.8 Gy60 Co γ rays or sham irradiation. At intervals of 1-4 weeks serial renal biopsies were obtained, followed by sacrifice at 24 weeks after irradiation. Individual kidney glomerular filtration rate (GFR), effective renal plasma flow (ERPF), and the hematocrit (Hct) were measured routinely. Renal irradiation resulted in a progressive decline in GFR, ERPF, and Hct, with minimal values being observed within 12 weeks of irradiation. No change in any of these parameters was noted in the sham-irradiated pigs. The initial morphological change in irradiated glomeruli was leukocyte attachment to capillary endothelial cells 3-6 weeks after irradiation followed by activation and swelling of the endothelial cells. This was followed by pronounced increases in capillary permeability with fluid and erythrocyte, leukocyte, and platelet exudation into the subendothelial/mesangial space. This resulted in compression of glomerular capillary lumina, which occurred concomitantly with the reduction in GFR. By 12 to 15 weeks after irradiation the changes in endothelial cells were less evident. However, mesangial cells exhibited evidence of activation and proliferation accompanied by progressive mesangial expansion and sclerosis. Thus the glomerular capillary endothelial and mesangial cells appear particularly important in the pathogenesis of radiation nephropathy.

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