Sprague-Dawley rats injected i.v. with a single dose of puromycin aminonucleoside (PAN) developed massive proteinuria five days later. Electron microscopic studies of perfusion-fixed glomeruli showed that loss of epithelial foot processes and their replacement by flattened expanses of epithelial cytoplasm began at two days and was extensive by four days after the injection of PAN. At and after five days (correlating with the onset and persistence of massive proteinuria), areas of focal loss of the epithelial covering on the outside of the glomerular basement membrane (GBM) were observed in 30% of glomeruli. Intravenously administered ferritin was distributed normally in most sections of the GBM of nephrotic animals, but abnormally deep penetration of particles was observed in GBM segments that lacked an external covering of epithelium. The same changes were found following in situ fixation of superficially placed glomeruli of Munich-Wistar rats with PAN nephrosis. We propose that the massive, early proteinuria in PAN nephrosis may be primarily due to a glomerular epithelial lesion, leading to scattered focal defects in the external covering of the GBM. Increased bulk flow of glomerular filtrate across the GBM in such areas may explain the highly selective proteinuria found in this form of the nephrotic syndrome.