Application of physiological shear stress to renal tubular epithelial cells

Nicholas Ferrell, Ruben M. Sandoval, Bruce A. Molitoris, Paul Brakeman, Shuvo Roy, William H. Fissell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Renal tubular epithelial cells are consistently exposed to flow of glomerular filtrate that creates fluid shear stress at the apical cell surface. This biophysical stimulus regulates several critical renal epithelial cell functions, including transport, protein uptake, and barrier function. Defining the in vivo mechanical conditions in the kidney tubule is important for accurately recapitulating these conditions in vitro. Here we provide a summary of the fluid flow conditions in the kidney and how this translates into different levels of fluid shear stress down the length of the nephron. A detailed method is provided for measuring fluid flow in the proximal tubule by intravital microscopy. Devices to mimic in vivo fluid shear stress for in vitro studies are discussed, and we present two methods for culture and analysis of renal tubule epithelial cells exposed physiological levels of fluid shear stress. The first is a microfluidic device that permits application of controlled shear stress to cells cultured on porous membranes. The second is culture of renal tubule cells on an orbital shaker. Each method has advantages and disadvantages that should be considered in the context of the specific experimental objectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMethods in Cell Biology
EditorsThomas Weimbs
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)9780128170823
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NameMethods in Cell Biology
ISSN (Print)0091-679X


  • Intravital microscopy
  • Kidney
  • Kidney-on-a-chip
  • Microfluidic
  • Proximal tubule
  • Shear stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology

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  • Cite this

    Ferrell, N., Sandoval, R. M., Molitoris, B. A., Brakeman, P., Roy, S., & Fissell, W. H. (2019). Application of physiological shear stress to renal tubular epithelial cells. In T. Weimbs (Ed.), Methods in Cell Biology (pp. 43-67). (Methods in Cell Biology; Vol. 153). Academic Press Inc..