Tannic acid in glutaraldehyde fixatives greatly enhanced the visualization of two developmentally and morphologically distinct stages in glomerular basement membrane (GBM) formation in newborn rat kidneys. First, in early stage glomeruli, double basement membranes between endothelial cells and podocytes were present and, in certain areas, appeared to be fusing. Second, in maturing stage glomeruli, elaborate loops and outpockets of basement membrane projected into epithelial, but not endothelial, sides of capillary walls. When Lowicryl thin sections from newborn rat kidneys were sequentially labeled with rabbit anti-laminin IgG and anti-rabbit IgG-colloidal gold, gold bound across the full width of all GBMs, including double basement membranes and outpockets. The same distribution was obtained when sections from rats that received intravenous injections of rabbit anti-laminin IgG 1 h before fixation were labeled directly with anti-rabbit IgG-colloidal gold. When kidneys were fixed 4 d after anti-laminin IgG injection, however, loops beneath the podocytes in maturing glomeruli were usually unlabeled and lengths of unlabeled GBM were interspersed with labeled lengths. In additional experiments, rabbit anti-laminin IgG was intravenously injected into newborn rats and, 4-14 d later, rats were re-injected with sheep anti-laminin IgG. Sections were then doubly labeled with anti-rabbit and anti-sheep IgG coupled to 10 and 5 nm colloidal gold, respectively. Sheep IgG occurred alone in outpockets of maturing glomeruli and also in lengths of GBM flanked by lengths containing rabbit IgG. These results indicate that, after fusion of double basement membranes, new segments of GBM appear beneath developing podocytes and are subsequently spliced into existing GBM. This splicing provides the additional GBM necessary for expanding glomerular capillaries.

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