Kidney from normal male albino rats, of body weight 170-200 g, was fixed by arterial perfusion with buffered tannic acid-glutaraldehyde, and postfixed with osmium tetroxide. Random and isotropic ultrathin sections from 23 different glomeruli from five rats were mounted on slot grids for staining and electron microscopy. Prints of whole glomeruli at a magnification of 3,909 were analyzed by stereological methods. The mean glomerular volume was (8.048 +/- 0.474) X 10(5) mum3 if the glomeruli are treated as spheres. The area of the basement membrane was 0.281 +/- 0.017 mm2 per glomerulus, of which 0.184 +/- 0.011 mm2 represents peripheral basement membrane. The aggregate epithelial slit length per glomerulus was 65.19 +/- 3.84 cm, of which 48.69 +/- 2.87 cm represents epithelial slits abutting on the peripheral basement membrane. Assuming that a slit diaphragm is 390 A wide, and that the pores of the slit diaphragm represent 26% of its area, the mean pore area is 3.96 cm2, of which 2.96 cm2 represents the area of peripheral pores. These findings are discussed in the context of the hydrodynamic theory of glomerular ultrafiltration. We conclude that the porous substructure of the glomerular slit diaphragm is significant in determining the hydraulic conductivity of the glomerulus and hence also solute flux during ultrafiltration.

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