Stability and leakiness: opposing challenges to the glomerulus

Kidney Int. 1996 Jun;49(6):1570-4. doi: 10.1038/ki.1996.227.


The complex architecture of the glomerular tuft is stabilized by several mechanisms. The basic system consists of the GBM and the mesangium maintaining the branching pattern of the capillary network. Superimposed are the podocytes, which appear to take effect by two mechanisms. First, podocytes contribute to the stabilization of the capillary folding pattern by supporting the angles between neighboring capillaries. Second, podocyte foot processes fixed to the outer aspect of the GBM probably function as contractile patches counteracting the elastic distension of the GBM. Simultaneously, the pattern of foot process interdigitation underlies the elaboration of a filtration slit and is thus pivotal for the high hydraulic permeability and the specificity of the glomerular filter. The loss of this pattern-commonly termed "foot process effacement" or "foot process fusion"-is frequently found in pathological situations and results in a decrease in permeability and impairment in specificity. On the other hand, foot process effacement is associated with prominent hypertrophy of the contractile apparatus of podocytes, suggesting an increased ability to generate forces counteracting capillary expansion. Thus, foot process effacement appears as an adaptive change in podocyte phenotype giving priority to the support function of podocytes for the prize of reducing the specific permeability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Kidney Glomerulus / cytology
  • Kidney Glomerulus / metabolism*
  • Kidney Glomerulus / ultrastructure