Glomerular podocytes are major determinants of filtration permselectivity in the glomerulus. Although the molecular mechanisms determining the characteristics of the glomerular filtration unit are incompletely understood, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) has been implicated. To analyze this process in situ, we established a method that allows exploration of in vivo mRNA expression of podocytes using single-cell reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Microdissected mouse glomeruli were held in a patch-clamp apparatus, and single podocytes were harvested by aspiration. After lysis, the cells were reverse transcribed, and PCR was performed (45 cycles). The podocyte nature of the material was confirmed by detection of podocyte-specific mRNA (glomerular epithelial protein 1 and Wilms' tumor protein 1). Using specific oligonucleotide primers, VEGF was detected in mRNA obtained from renal cortex, single microdissected glomeruli, cultured murine podocytes, and single podocytes in situ. All cells examined expressed three VEGF isoforms (121, 165, and 189). These differ in their capacity for binding to extracellular matrix and could have different potencies regulating glomerular endothelial permeability. Our approach should allow a semiquantitative, isoform-specific evaluation of VEGF mRNA expression in podocytes during nephrogenesis and in glomerular disease.