Most tubular epithelial cell types express primary cilia, and mutations of primary-cilium-associated proteins are well known to cause several kinds of cystic renal disease. However, until now, it has been unclear whether mammalian podocytes express primary cilia in vivo. In this study, we determined whether primary cilia are present in the podocytes of rat immature and mature glomeruli by means of transmission electron microscopy of serial ultrathin sections. In immature glomeruli of fetal rats, podocytes express the primary cilia with high percentages at the S-shaped body (88 +/- 5%, n = 3), capillary loop (95 +/- 4%, n = 4), and maturing glomerulus (76 +/- 13%, n = 5) stages. The percentage of ciliated podocytes was significantly lower at the maturing glomerulus stage than at the former two stages. In mature glomeruli of adult rats, ciliated podocytes were not found at all (0 +/- 0%, n = 11). These findings indicate that the primary cilia gradually disappear in rat podocytes during glomerular development. Since glomerular filtration rate increases during development, the primary cilia on the podocytes are subjected to a stronger bending force. Thus, the disappearance of the primary cilia presumably prevents the entry of excessive calcium-ions via the cilium-associated polycystin complexes and the disturbance of intracellular signaling cascades in mature podocytes.