The number of podocyte slit diaphragms is decreased in minimal change nephrotic syndrome

Pediatr Res. 2002 Sep;52(3):349-55. doi: 10.1203/00006450-200209000-00007.


The pathophysiology of proteinuria in acquired kidney diseases is mostly unknown. Recent findings in genetic renal diseases suggest that glomerular epithelial cells (podocytes) and the slit diaphragm connecting the podocyte foot processes play an important role in the development of proteinuria. In this work we systematically evaluated the podocyte slit pores by transmission electron microscopy in two important nephrotic diseases, minimal change nephrotic syndrome (MCNS) and membranous nephropathy (MN). As controls, we used kidneys with tubulointerstitial nephritis (TIN). Effacement of podocyte foot processes was evident in proteinuric kidneys. However, quite normal looking foot processes and slit pores with varying width were also observed. Careful analysis of slit pores revealed, that the proportion of the pores spanned by the linear image of slit diaphragm, was reduced by 39% in kidneys from MCNS patients (1265 pores analyzed) compared with TIN samples (902 pores analyzed, p = 0.0003). To enhance the detection rate of the slit diaphragms, the "empty" podocyte pores were further analyzed with tilting series from -45 to +45. This revealed the linear diaphragm image in 71% and 26% of the slits in TIN and MCNS kidneys, respectively (p = 0.0003). In contrast to findings in MCNS, no significant reduction of the slit diaphragms were seen in MN kidneys compared with the controls. The results suggest that MCNS is associated with disruption of glomerular slit diaphragms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Capillaries / ultrastructure
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology*
  • Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Kidney Glomerulus / blood supply
  • Kidney Glomerulus / cytology
  • Kidney Glomerulus / metabolism
  • Kidney Glomerulus / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nephritis, Interstitial / pathology
  • Nephrosis, Lipoid / metabolism
  • Nephrosis, Lipoid / pathology*
  • Proteinuria
  • Retrospective Studies