Infobox Anatomy
Latin = glomerulus renis
GraySubject = 253
GrayPage = 1221

Caption = Glomerulus.

Caption2 = Distribution of bloodvessels in cortex of kidney.
Precursor = Metanephric blastema
System =
Artery =
Vein =
Nerve =
Lymph =
MeshName = Kidney+Glomerulus
MeshNumber = A05.810.453.324.359
DorlandsPre = g_07
DorlandsSuf = 12394744

A glomerulus is a capillary tuft surrounded by Bowman's capsule in nephrons of the vertebrate kidney. It receives its blood supply from an afferent arteriole of the renal circulation. Unlike most other capillary beds, the glomerulus drains into an efferent arteriole rather than a venule. The resistance of the arterioles results in high pressure in the glomerulus aiding the process of ultrafiltration where fluids and soluble materials in the blood are forced out of the capillaries and into Bowman's capsule.

A glomerulus and its surrounding Bowman's capsule constitute a renal corpuscle, the basic filtration unit of the kidney. The rate at which blood is filtered through all of the glomeruli, and thus the measure of the overall renal function, is the glomerular filtration rate (GFR).

The first place where urine is formed in the kidney, filters fluid from the blood.

Afferent circulation

The afferent arteriole that supplies the glomerulus is a branch off of an interlobular artery in the cortex.


If a substance can pass through the endothelial cells, glomerular basement membrane, and podocytes, then it is known as ultrafiltrate, and it enters lumen of proximal tubule. Otherwise, it returns through the efferent circulation, discussed below.

Endothelial cells

The endothelial cells of the glomerulus contain numerous pores (fenestrae) that, unlike those of other fenestrated capillaries, are not spanned by diaphragms. The cells have openings which are so large that nearly anything smaller than a red blood cell passes through that layer.

Because of this, the endothelial cells lining the glomerulus are not usually considered part of the renal filtration barrier.

Glomerular basement membrane

The glomerular endothelium sits on a very thick (250-350 nm) glomerular basement membrane. It is not only uncharacteristically thick compared to most other basement membranes (40-60 nm), but it is also rich in negatively charged glycosaminoglycans such as heparan sulfate.

The negatively-charged basement membrane repels negatively-charged proteins from the blood, helping to prevent their passage into Bowman's space.


Podocytes line the other side of the glomerular basement membrane and form part of the lining of Bowman's space. Podocytes form a tight interdigitating network of "foot processes" (pedicels) that control the filtration of proteins from the capillary lumen into Bowman's space.

The space between adjacent podocyte foot processes is spanned by a slit diaphragm formed by several proteins including podocin and nephrin. In addition, foot processes have a negatively-charged coat (glycocalyx) that limits the filtration of negatively-charged molecules, such as serum albumin.

The podocytes are sometimes considered the "visceral layer of Bowman's capsule", rather than part of the glomerulus.

Intraglomerular mesangial cell

Intraglomerular mesangial cells are found in the interstitium between endothelial cells of the glomerulus. They are not part of the filtration barrier but are specialized pericytes that participate indirectly in filtration.


The structures of the layers determine their permeability-selectivity "permselectivity". The factors that inflence permselectivity are the negative charge of the basement membrane and the podocytic epithelium, and the effective pore size of the glomerular wall (8 nm). As a result, large and/or negatively charged molecules will pass through far less frequently than small and/or positively charged ones.Cite book | author=Guyton, Arthur C.; Hall, John E. | title=Textbook of Medical Physiology | date=2006 | publisher=Elsevier Saunders | location=Philadelphia | isbn=0-7216-0240-1 | pages=316-317] For instance, small ions such as sodium and potassium pass freely, while larger proteins, such as hemoglobin and albumin have practically no permeability at all.

Efferent circulation

Blood is carried out of the glomerulus by an efferent "arteriole" instead of a "venule", as is observed in most other capillary systems. This provides tighter control over the bloodflow through the glomerulus, since arterioles can be dilated and constricted more readily than venules, owing to arterioles' larger smooth muscle layer (tunica media).

Efferent arterioles of juxtamedullary nephrons (ie, the 15% of nephrons closest to the medulla) send straight capillary branches that deliver isotonic blood to the renal medulla. Along with the loop of Henle, these vasa recta play a crucial role in the establishment of the nephron's countercurrent exchange system.

The efferent arteriole, into which the glomerulus delivers blood, empties into an interlobular vein.

Juxtaglomerular cells

The walls of the afferent arteriole contain specialized smooth muscle cells that synthesize renin. These juxtaglomerular cells play a major role in the renin-angiotensin system, which helps regulate blood volume and pressure.



External links

* [ Image and article at FGCU]
* "Kidney (Glomerulus)"
* - "Mammal, kidney cortex (LM, Medium)"
* [ UNC Nephropathology]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Glomerulus — Glo*mer u*lus, n.; pl. {Glomeruli}. [NL., dim. of L. glomus. See 3d {Glome}.] (Anat.) The bunch of looped capillary blood vessels in a Malpighian capsule of the kidney. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Glomerulus — bezeichnet: ein Nierenknäuelchen, siehe Nierenkörperchen ein Nervenfaserknäuel, siehe Nervenfaser eine Blütenstandsform, siehe Blütenstand Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Glomerŭlus — Glomerŭlus, 1) (Bot.), Blüthenknäuel, eine Zusammenhäufung von kleinen kurzgestielten Blüthchen, meist in den Blatt u. Astwinkeln; vgl. Knäuel; daher Glomeratus, knäuelförmig, geballt. 2) Glomeruli Malpighii (Corpuscula, Acini M., Malpighische… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Glomerŭlus — (lat.), Büschel, eine Form des Blütenstandes, auch die Sporenfrucht bei gewissen Rotalgen …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Glomerulus — Glomerulus, in die ⇒ Bowman Kapsel eingesenkter Teil eines ⇒ Malpighi Körperchens; Blutcapillarknäuel mit zuund abführender Arteriole. Durch die G.wand wird durch Ultrafiltration infolge des Capillardrucks der ⇒ Primärharn gepresst …   Deutsch wörterbuch der biologie

  • glomerulus — [glō mer′yo͞o ləs] n. pl. glomeruli [glō mer′yo͞olī΄] [ModL: see GLOMERULE] any cluster or structure of blood vessels or nerves; esp., any of the tiny clusters of capillaries in the kidney which act as filters, initiating the formation of urine… …   English World dictionary

  • Glomerulus — A tiny ball shaped structure in the kidney composed of capillary blood vessels actively involved in the filtration of the blood to form urine. The glomerulus is one of the key structures that make up the nephron, the functional unit of the kidney …   Medical dictionary

  • glomerulus — noun (plural glomeruli) Etymology: New Latin, glomerulus, glomerule, diminutive of Latin glomer , glomus ball; akin to Latin globus globe Date: 1856 a small convoluted or intertwined mass; especially a tuft of capillaries at the point of origin… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Glomerulus — Glo|me|ru|lus 〈m.; , ru|li〉 Kapillarknäuel der Nierenrinde; oV Glomerulum [<lat. glomus, Gen. glomeris „Knäuel“] * * * Glomerulus   [Verkleinerungsbildung zu lateinisch glomus »Knäuel«] der, /, Glomerulum das, s/, kapillares… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Glomerulus — Glo|me|ru|lus der; , <aus nlat. glomerulus, Verkleinerungsform von lat. glomus, Gen. glomeris »Knäuel«> Blutgefäßknäuelchen der Nierenrinde (Med.) …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

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