Graded dextrans were used as tracers to study glomerular permeability in nephrotic rats. Two narrow range fractions were used, one which was approximately the same size as albumin (62,000 mol wt) and one which was considerably larger (125,000 mol wt). Nephrosis was induced with daily injections of an aminonucleoside of puromycin, and the animals examined after 7 days, when proteinuria is minimal, or after 10 days, when proteinuria has almost reached a maximum. At both stages and with both dextran fractions the following results were obtained: (a) dextran was retained for up to 3 h (the longest interval studied) in the plasma at high concentration; (b) there was a sharp drop in the concentration of tracer between the inner, looser portions of the basement membrane (lamina rara interna) and its outer denser portions (lamina densa), (c) accumulation of dextran was seen in the mesangial areas with time; and (d) no accumulation of dextran was seen in the slits at any time. These results are the same as those reported earlier in normal animals, and they demonstrate that in nephrotics the basement membrane still behaves as the main filtration barrier retaining most of the plasma proteins. Certain differences from the findings in normals were also noted in that increased amounts of the tracer were present on the epithelial side of the basement membrane: (a) in the urinary spaces; (b) in the subepithelial portions of the basement membrane; and (c) within lysosomes (protein absorption droplets) in the epithelial cytoplasm. In addition areas of thinning of the dense portions of the basement membrane (lamina densa) were seen which were accompanied by a corresponding widening of the less dense, subendothelial and subepithelial layers (lamina rara interna and externa, respectively). The presence of increased quantities of dextran on the epithelial side of the basement membrane indicates that the filter, i.e. the basement membrane, is leaky and allows increased passage of dextrans and therefore plasma proteins.

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