Glomerular podocytes in cultured rat kidney slices - A qualitative and quantitative electron-microscopic study

John F. Bertram, Aurora Messina, Peter C. Dillane, Graeme B. Ryan

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The ultrastructure of rat glomerular epithelial cells (podocytes) in kidney slices in vitro was examined using qualitative and quantitative electron microscopy. The kidney slices were cultured in Medium 199 with Hanks' salts in a 5% CO2/95% O2 environment for up to 14 days. Few changes in podocyte ultrastructure occurred in the first 12 h of culture, but by 24 h cell bodies were rounded, microvilli were present on all podocyte surfaces, and some foot processes had been replaced by flattened expanses of cytoplasm. These changes were more pronounced by 3 days, when some podocytes had developed pseudopodal extensions and appeared to be migrating from glomeruli onto the slice surface. Podocytes could still be identified after 8, 10 and 14 days of culture, although relatively few glomeruli remained at 14 days. Morphometric methods were used to analyse podocyte shape, volume and surface area during the first 4 days of culture. The most significant change involved loss of foot processes: the number of filtration slits per 100 μm of basement membrane decreased from 211.8 ± 15.0 (mean ± SD) at the commencement of culture, to 55.3 ± 22.6 after 2 days (P < 0.001). These data provide baseline information for in vitro studies on the effects of nephrotoxins on podocytes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-429
Number of pages11
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • Electron microscopy
  • Glomerulus
  • Kidney
  • Morphometry
  • Podocytes
  • Rat (Sprague Dawley)
  • Tissue culture

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