Studies of glomerular diseases in animal models show that progression toward nephron loss starts with extracapillary lesions, whereby podocytes play the central role. If injuries remain bound within the endocapillary compartment, they will undergo recovery or be repaired by scaring. Degenerative, inflammatory and dysregulative mechanisms leading to nephron loss are distinguished. In addition to several other unique features, the dysregulative mechanisms leading to collapsing glomerulopathy are particular in that glomeruli and tubules are affected in parallel. In contrast, in degenerative and inflammatory diseases, tubular injury is secondary to glomerular lesions. In both of the latter groups of diseases, the progression starts in the glomerulus with the loss of the separation between the tuft and Bowman's capsule by forming cell bridges (parietal cells and/or podocytes) between the glomerular and the parietal basement membranes. Cell bridges develop into tuft adhesions to Bowman's capsule, which initiate the formation of crescents, either by misdirected filtration (proteinaceous crescents) or by epithelial cell proliferation (cellular crescents). Crescents may spread over the entire circumference of the glomerulus and, via the glomerulotubular junction, may extend onto the tubule. Two mechanisms concerning the transfer of a glomerular injury onto the tubulointerstitium are discussed: (1) direct encroachment of extracapillary lesions and (2) protein leakage into tubular urine, resulting in injury to the tubule and the interstitium. There is evidence that direct encroachment is the crucial mechanism. Progression of chronic renal disease is underlain by a vicious cycle which passes on the damage from lost and/or damaged nephrons to so far healthy nephrons. Presently, two mechanisms are discussed: (1) the loss of nephrons leads to compensatory mechanisms in the remaining nephrons (glomerular hypertension, hyperfiltration, hypertrophy) which increase their vulnerability to any further challenge (overload hypothesis); and (2) a proteinuric glomerular disease leads, by some way or another, to tubulointerstitial inflammation and fibrosis, accounting for the further deterioration of renal function (fibrosis hypothesis). So far, no convincing evidence has been published that in primary glomerular diseases fibrosis is harmful to healthy nephrons. The potential of glomerular injuries to regenerate or to be repaired by scaring is limited. The only option for extracapillary injuries with tuft adhesion is repair by formation of a segmental adherent scar (i.e., segmental glomerulosclerosis).