Background: The interaction among the glomerular components plays an important role in the development of glomerular lesions; thus, investigation of the ultrastructural three-dimensional (3D) configuration of the human glomerular cells and extracellular matrix (ECM) is important for understanding the pathogenesis of glomerulosclerosis, especially glomerulonephritis. Methods: We applied a new technique of serial block-face scanning electron microscopy (SBF-SEM), which helps to acquire serial electron microscopic images to reconstruct a 3D ultrastructure, to a human kidney biopsy specimen obtained from a 25-year-old woman with lupus nephritis. Results: SBF-SEM demonstrated that the cytoplasmic processes of the podocyte penetrated into the lamina densa of the glomerular basement membrane, and was in direct contact with the cytoplasm of mesangial cells at the site of mesangial interposition. Conclusion: Although this is a single-case observational study, SBF-SEM revealed a unique 3D configuration, suggesting a novel mechanism of direct intercellular cross-communication between podocytes and mesangial cells, aside from the presumed paracrine communication.
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