Electron micrographs of the rete mirabile in the medulla of the rat have revealed that the endothelium of the afferent and efferent vessels are markedly different in fine structure. The venous capillaries returning blood from the papilla are lined with a fenestrated endothelium much like that in the peritubular capillaries of the kidney. The arterial capillaries delivering blood to the papilla have an unperforated lining of overlapping endothelial cells with extremely irregular tapered margins. It is pointed out that the organization of particularly the latter vessels suggests that the functional capabilities of these retia go beyond those of a simple diffusion countercurrent exchanger.

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