Podocytes are highly specialized cells of the kidney glomerulus that wrap around capillaries and that neighbor cells of the Bowmana's capsule. When it comes to glomerular filtration, podocytes play an active role in preventing plasma proteins from entering the urinary ultrafiltrate by providing a barrier comprising filtration slits between foot processes, which in aggregate represent a dynamic network of cellular extensions. Foot processes interdigitate with foot processes from adjacent podocytes and form a network of narrow and rather uniform gaps. The fenestrated endothelial cells retain blood cells but permit passage of small solutes and an overlying basement membrane less permeable to macromolecules, in particular to albumin. The cytoskeletal dynamics and structural plasticity of podocytes as well as the signaling between each of these distinct layers are essential for an efficient glomerular filtration and thus for proper renal function. The genetic or acquired impairment of podocytes may lead to foot process effacement (podocyte fusion or retraction), a morphological hallmark of proteinuric renal diseases. Here, we briefly discuss aspects of a contemporary view of podocytes in glomerular filtration, the patterns of structural changes in podocytes associated with common glomerular diseases, and the current state of basic and clinical research.
Reiser, J., & Altintas, M. M. (2016). Podocytes. F1000Research. Faculty of 1000 Ltd. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.7255.1