Scanning and transmission electron-microscopic study of the development of the podocyte in the human fetus

Pediatr Nephrol. 1997 Apr;11(2):133-9. doi: 10.1007/s004670050244.


The metanephric kidneys of seven human fetuses at 11-17 weeks' gestation were examined by scanning and transmission electron microscopy in order to evaluate differentiation of glomerular podocytes. When glomeruli were in the stage of S-shaped bodies, the surface of the visceral epithelium of renal corpuscles was smooth, with indistinct cell borders. As the glomeruli developed, visceral epithelial cells of renal corpuscles became spherical and resembled clusters of grapes in dense aggregation. In this stage, processes and foot processes were simultaneously formed at the base of epithelial cells. As glomeruli further differentiated, visceral epithelial cells of renal corpuscles began to separate from one another and became flat with the development of vascular loops. Processes and foot processes were exposed for the first time in Bowman's space. In this stage, the degree of differentiation of epithelial cells varied widely among various sites of the glomerulus. As glomeruli developed further, projections became more complex and epithelial cells began to show structures similar to those of adult epithelial cells. The adjacent foot processes arose from different cells throughout the period of morphological differentiation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development / physiology*
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney / embryology*
  • Kidney / ultrastructure*
  • Kidney Glomerulus / cytology
  • Kidney Glomerulus / embryology
  • Kidney Glomerulus / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Pregnancy