Glomerular Permeability Barrier in the Rat: Functional Assessment by In Vitro Methods

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The formation of glomerular ultrafiltrate is dependent on the prevailing hemodynamic forces within the glomerular microcirculation and the intrinsic properties of the filtration barrier.However, direct assessment of the permeability barrier is difficult with most available techniques. We used confocal microscopy to image 1-microns thick optical cross-sections of isolated intact glomeruli and glomeruli denuded of cells and quantitated dextran (70,000 mol wt) diffusion from the capillary lumen. Dextran permeance was 11 times greater for the acellular filtration barrier than the intact peripheral capillary. Consideration of the basement membrane and cells as series resistors demonstrated that cells of the filtration barrier contribute 90% of the total resistance to macromolecular permeance. Using a different approach, dextran sieving coefficients for acellular glomeruli consolidated as a multilayer sheet in a filtration cell were similar to those for intact glomeruli in vivo at radii 30-36 A and (approximately) 50 times greater at a dextran radius of 60 A. The presence of cells significantly reduced hydraulic permeability determined on consolidated intact or acellular glomeruli in an ultrafiltration cell with 50 mmHg applied pressure. The glomerular basement membrane does restrict macromolecular permeability but cells are important determinants of the overall macromolecular and hydraulic permeability of the glomerulus. (J. Clin. Invest. 1993. 92:929-936.) Key words: permeability. glomerulus. glomerular epithelial cells. permselectivity

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