Alterations of the glomerular epithelium in acute aminonucleoside nephrosis. Evidence for formation of occluding junctions and epithelial cell detachment

Lab Invest. 1976 Jan;34(1):43-59.


The visceral glomerular epithelium of rats made nephrotic by daily injections of puromycin aminonucleoside was examined from the time of onset of proteinuria (day 6) to the time when many animals die (day 15) in order to establish the chronology of the pathologic alterations which occur during the course of the disease. In addition, the structure of the residual epithelial slits was examined using special fixatives and freeze-fracture. Changes seen early in the disease (7 to 9 days) are: (1) a reduction in the number of foot processes and filtration slits; (2) occurrence of occluding junctions in many of the residual slits coupled with displacement of the slit diaphragms; (3) thinning of the dense central portion of the basement membrane (lamina densa) with a corresponding widening of the space (lamina rara externa) between it and the epithelium; (4) heightened epithelial pinocytosis with increased numbers of protein absorption droplets or lysosomes. In freeze-fracture preparations the occluding junctions were seen to be limited in extent and made up of only a few strands, indicating they are incomplete and represent occluding maculae or fasciae rather than zonulae. Later on in the disease (10 to 15 days) no further changes in the number or arrangement of slits is evident, but other alterations occur: (1) denuded regions of basement membrane are seen where there is initially partial and eventually complete detachment of the epithelium from the basement membrane; (2) increasing numbers of large vacuoles or phagosomes and decreasing numbers of fully condensed lysosomes are present; and (3) basement membrane-like material is seen in the spaces between the partially detached epithelium and basement membrane. The new findings in this study are: (1) the clarification of early (reversible) versus late (probably irreversible) changes in the glomerular epithelium in a acute aminonucleoside nephrosis; (2) delineation of the structure of the residual epithelial slits; (3) the description of progressive loosening of the attachment between the epithelium and the basement membrane leading to focal or complete epithelial cell detachment; (4) the presentation of evidence indicating that exhaustion of the lysosomal system of the glomerular epithelium (in protein absorption and concentration) occurs late in the disease. The available evidence is summarized and indicates that the glomerular basement membrane, the main glomerular filter, is defective in aminonucleoside nephrosis and allows increased protein leakage. However, it seems likely that the main site of action of aminonucleoside is on the epithelium leading to the production of defective basement membrane.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basement Membrane / pathology
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Kidney Glomerulus / pathology*
  • Lysosomes / pathology
  • Nephrosis / chemically induced
  • Nephrosis / pathology*
  • Puromycin Aminonucleoside
  • Rats
  • Time Factors


  • Puromycin Aminonucleoside