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Microheterogeneity of protein and sterol content in kidney podocyte membrane


Podocytes are highly specialized epithelial cells which form part of the filtration barrier in the kidney glomerulus1. Their cell body sends out long ‘foot processes’ which interdigitate with those of neighbouring podocytes and which rest on the glomerular basal lamina. The maintenance of this characteristic cellular architecture is critical to the normal functioning of the kidney and may be controlled not only by cytoskeletal elements within the cell1,2 but also by some unknown properties of the podocyte plasma membrane. Using freeze-fracture and a cytochemical probe for membrane cholesterol, filipin3,4, we show here that the protein content of and the number of filipin–sterol complexes in the podocyte plasma membrane are markedly reduced at sites of contact with the basal lamina, illustrating a precise zonal membrane differentiation in this region.

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Orci, L., Singh, A., Amherdt, M. et al. Microheterogeneity of protein and sterol content in kidney podocyte membrane. Nature 293, 646–647 (1981).

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