Nephrosis induced in rats by puromycin aminonucleoside treatment (PAN) results in the apical displacement of the glomerular filtration slit membrane by newly formed, intercellular occluding-type junctions. Similar changes can also be induced by acute kidney perfusion with protamine sulfate (PS). We have investigated the molecular nature of these altered junctions using an antibody to ZO-1, a protein found exclusively in tight junctions. Immunoblotting demonstrates ZO-1, a 225-kd band, in glomerular extracts of normal, PAN-, and PS-treated rats. By immunofluorescence, ZO-1 was localized at the base of podocytes outlining the capillary loops of glomeruli from all three experimental groups. At the electron microscope level, using immunoperoxidase or immunogold labeling, ZO-1 was concentrated along the cytoplasmic surfaces of the slit diaphragms of normal rats. In PAN or PS rats, it was concentrated along both the newly formed occluding-type junctions and the remaining slit diaphragms. When podocalyxin (the major membrane sialoprotein of the podocyte) was similarly localized, it was found exclusively apical to the displaced slit membrane. Based on morphology and the presence of ZO-1, the altered junctions seen in PAN and PS rats appear to represent bona fide tight junctions. Their rapid (15-minute) induction in PS-treated rats suggests that on neutralization of the cell surface charge by polycation perfusion, discontinuous tight junctions form from a preexisting pool of junctional proteins. These findings raise the possibility that glomerular hydraulic conductivity may be regulated in part by regulating the relative patency and width of the filtration slits through focal tight junction assembly.