The glomerulus is a tuft of small blood vessels called capillaries located within Bowman's capsule within the kidney. Glomerular mesangial cells structurally support the tufts. Blood enters the capillaries of the glomerulus by a single arteriole called an afferent arteriole and leaves by an efferent arteriole. The capillaries consist of a tube lined by endothelial cells with a central lumen. The walls have a unique structure: there are pores between the cells that allow water and soluble substances to exit, and after passing through the glomerular basement membrane, and between podocyte foot processes, enter the capsule as ultrafiltrate.
Figure 2: (a) Diagram of the juxtaglomerular apparatus: it has specialized cells working as a unit which monitor the sodiujuxtaglomerular apparatus: it has three types of specm content of the fluid in the distal convoluted tubule (not labelled - it's the tubule on the left) and adjust the glomerular filtration rate and the rate of renin
release. (b) Micrograph showing the glomerulus and surrounding structures.
Scanning electron microscope view of the inner surface of an opened (broken) capillary with fenestrae visible.(100,000x magnification)
Capillaries of the glomerulus are lined by endothelial cells. These contain numerous pores - also called fenestrae - 50–100 nm in diameter. Unlike those of other capillaries with fenestrations, these fenestrations are not spanned by diaphragms. They allow for the filtration of fluid, blood plasma solutes and protein, at the same time preventing the filtration of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
The glomerulus has a glomerular basement membrane (GBM) consisting mainly of laminins, type IV collagen, agrin and nidogen, which are synthesized and secreted by both endothelial cells and podocytes: thus the GBM is sandwiched between the glomerular capillaries and the podocytes. The GBM is 250–400 nm in thickness, which is thicker than basement membranes of other tissue. It is a barrier to blood proteins such as albumin and globulin.
The part of the podocyte in contact with the GBM is called a podocyte foot process or pedicle (Fig. 3): there are gaps between the foot processes through which the filtrate flows into Bowman's space of the capsule. . The space between adjacent podocyte foot processes is spanned by slit diaphragms consisting of a mat of proteins, including podocin and nephrin. In addition, foot processes have a negatively charged coat (glycocalyx) that repels negatively charged molecules such as serum albumin.