Atubular glomeruli and glomerulotubular junction abnormalities in diabetic nephropathy

Behzad Najafian, Youngki Kim, John T Crosson, Michael Mauer

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101 Scopus citations


Atubular glomeruli (AG) have been described in several renal disorders. However, little attention has been paid to AG in diabetic nephropathy (DN). Preliminary studies suggested that tip lesions were frequently present in type 1 diabetic (D) patients with proteinuria. The aim of this study was to determine the frequency of AG and their possible relationship with tip lesions in DN. Renal biopsies from eight proteinuric type 1 D patients with normal to moderately reduced GFR (76 ± 26 ml/min per 1.73 m2) and eight normal subjects were studied by light (LM) and electron microscopy (EM). Glomerular volume, volume of the glomerular corpuscle, which is tuft, and the fractional volumes of proximal, distal, and atrophic tubules per cortex were estimated using appropriate stereologic methods. Glomerulotubular junctions were examined on serial sections and classified into glomeruli attached to: normal tubules (NT); short atrophic tubules (SAT); long atrophic tubules (LAT); atrophic tubules with no observable glomerular opening (ATNO); and atubular glomeruli (AG). EM studies showed typical diabetic changes in biopsies, including increased GBM width (P < 0.00001) and mesangial fractional volume (P < 0.0001) and decreased filtration surface density (P < 0.01) compared with normal subjects. Seventeen percent of glomeruli in the D patients were atubular, and 51% were attached to atrophic tubules. Tip lesions were present in all SAT, 64% of LAT, 82% of ATNO, and only 9% of NT and were never observed in normal subjects. The relative volume of AG was smaller than glomeruli in other categories (P < 0.05). Fractional volume of proximal (P < 0.01) and distal (P <0.01) tubules per cortex were decreased, while fractional volume of cortical interstitium (P <0.00001) and atrophic tubules (P <0.01) were increased in D patients. Fractional volume of atrophic tubules, %AG, and percent of glomeruli with tip lesion explained 94% of the GFR variability in diabetic patients (P <0.05). Thus, AG and glomerulotubular junction abnormalities may be important in the development and progression of DN.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)908-917
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Society of Nephrology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2003


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