Using a unique strain of Wistar rats endowed with glomeruli situated directly on the renal cortical surface, we measured glomerular capillary pressures using servo-nulling micropipette transducer techniques. Pressures in 12 glomerular capillaries from 7 rats averaged 60 cm H(2)O, or approximately 50% of mean systemic arterial values. Wave form characteristics for these glomerular capillaries were found to be remarkably similar to those of the central aorta. From similarly direct estimates of hydrostatic pressures in proximal tubules, and colloid osmotic pressures in systemic and efferent arteriolar plasmas, the net driving force for ultrafiltration was calculated. The average value of 14 cm H(2)O is lower by some two-thirds than the majority of estimates reported previously based on indirect techniques. Single nephron GFR (glomerular filtration rate) was also measured in these rats, thereby permitting calculation of the glomerular capillary ultrafiltration coefficient. The average value of 0.044 nl sec(-1) cm H(2)O(-1) glomerulus(-1) is at least fourfold greater than previous estimates derived from indirect observations.