The highly ordered, isoporous substructure of the glomerular slit diaphragm was revealed in rat and mouse kidneys fixed by perfusion with tannic acid and glutaraldehyde. The slit diaphragm was similar in both animal species and appeared as a continuous junctional band, 300–450 Å wide, consistently present within all slits formed by the epithelial foot processes. The diaphragm exhibited a zipper-like substructure with alternating, periodic cross bridges extending from the podocyte plasma membranes to a central filament which ran parallel to and equidistant from the cell membranes. The dimensions and spacing of the cross bridges defined a uniform population of rectangular pores approximately 40 by 140 Å in cross section and 70 Å in length. The total area of the pores was calculated to be about 2–3% of the total surface area of the glomerular capillaries. Physiological data indicate that the glomerular filter functions as if it were an isoporous membrane which excludes proteins larger than serum albumin. The similarity between the dimensions of the pores in the slit diaphragm and estimates for the size and shape of serum albumin supports the conclusion from tracer experiments that the slit diaphragm may serve as the principal filtration barrier to plasma proteins in the kidney.

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