Tridimensional ultrastructure of glomerular capillary endothelium revealed by high-resolution scanning electron microscopy

Microvasc Res. 1989 Nov;38(3):296-308. doi: 10.1016/0026-2862(89)90007-1.


Recent advances in specimen preparation techniques and scanning electron microscope (SEM) design have permitted ultrastructural examination of the glomerular capillary wall in three dimensions using high-resolution scanning electron microscopy (HRSEM). Specimens in which the cytosol and cytoskeleton have been extracted, but cell membranes nuclear structures and organelles left in place, were studied using a Hitachi SEM with a resolution of approximately 3 nm. Each HRSEM micrograph displayed a depth of field and information content equivalent to 15-30 consecutive, ultrathin, transmission electron microscope (TEM) sections viewed simultaneously in perfect serial alignment. The results have confirmed previous ultrastructural observations obtained by use of TEM and, in addition, have revealed new ultrastructural features of the normal rat glomerulus. A morphometric analysis of glomerular endothelium carried out using the HRSEM micrographs revealed that the endothelial cell processes, which lie between the fenestrae, are nearly circular in cross section and that they, as well as the fenestrae, have a diameter of approximately 60 nm. The potential functional role of the fenestrae in controlling access to the underlying basement membrane requires further study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basement Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Capillaries / ultrastructure*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / ultrastructure*
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Kidney Glomerulus / blood supply*
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains