Atubular glomeruli and glomerular cysts--a possible pathway for nephron loss in the human kidney?

J Pathol. 1996 Aug;179(4):421-6. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9896(199608)179:4<421::AID-PATH616>3.0.CO;2-3.


Glomerular tufts were removed and scanning electron microscopy was used to study the interior of Bowman's capsule, in order to identify atubular glomeruli. Normal renal cortex was studied from six kidneys removed for tumour and six renal transplants removed for end-stage rejection. Atubular glomeruli occurred in normal renal cortex in less than 1 percent of glomeruli, but were more common in transplant nephropathy, representing up to 61 percent of glomeruli. Glomerular cysts were identified which also lacked a tubular connection. Both atubular glomeruli and glomerular cysts contained a contracted glomerular capillary tuft and in both, Bowman's capsule was lined mostly by parietal podocytes. It is suggested that atubular glomeruli may be precursors of the glomerular cysts. The glomerular tuft may produce filtrate which exits the glomerulus via the parietal podocytes on Bowman's capsule. In normal human kidney, the formation of atubular glomeruli by disconnection from the tubule may represent an alternative pathway for the gradual nephron loss that is associated with ageing. This process may be amplified in disease: disconnection from the tubule may be an important part of irreversible nephron damage in chronic allograft nephropathy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cysts / ultrastructure*
  • Female
  • Graft Rejection / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology*
  • Kidney Glomerulus / abnormalities
  • Kidney Glomerulus / ultrastructure*
  • Kidney Transplantation / pathology*
  • Kidney Tubules / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Middle Aged
  • Nephrons / ultrastructure