The glomerular capillaries function as the filtration barrier that retains albumin and other plasma proteins in the circulation. The unresolved question that has been asked for more than 50 years is, Which structural component of these capillaries constitutes the main molecular sieve that normally retains albumin and allows its passage in diseases associated with proteinuria? There is considerable evidence implicating both the glomerular basement membrane (GBM) and the epithelial filtration slits as the barrier. However, the prevailing point of view at present is that the slit diaphragms bridging the filtration slits are responsible for this important function, and evidence implicating the GBM is largely ignored or forgotten. In this issue of the JCI, Jarad et al. show that in laminin β2–deficient (Lamb2–/–) mice, proteinuria can be directly attributed to the altered composition of the GBM (see the related article beginning on page 2272). Changes in the permeability of the GBM and its organization were primary to changes in the epithelium, as they preceded foot process effacement and loss of slit diaphragms.
Marilyn G. Farquhar
Diagram of the glomerulus in normal and