Increased permeability of the glomerular basement membrane to ferritin after removal of glycosaminoglycans (heparan sulfate) by enzyme digestion

Yashpal S. Kanwar, Alfred Linker, Marilyn Gist Farquhar

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Glomerular basement membranes (GBM’s) were subjected to digestion in situ with glycosaminoglycan-degrading enzymes to assess the effect of removing glycosaminoglycans (GAG) on the permeability of the GBM to native ferritin (NF). Kidneys were digested by perfusion with enzyme solutions followed by perfusion with NF. In controls treated with buffer alone, NF was seen in high concentration in the capillary lumina, but the tracer did not penetrate to any extent beyond the lamina rara interna (LRI) of the GBM, and little or no NF reached the urinary spaces. Findings in kidneys perfused with Streptomyces hyaluronidase (removes hyaluronic acid) and chondroitinase- ABC (removes hyaluronic acid, chondroitin 4- and 6-sulfates, and dermatan sulfate, but not heparan sulfate) were the same as in controls. In kidneys digested with heparinase (which removes most GAG including heparan sulfate), NF penetrated the GBM in large amounts and reached the urinary spaces. Increased numbers of tracer molecules were found in the lamina densa (LD) and lamina rara externa (LRE) of the GBM. In control kidneys perfused with cationized ferritin (CF), CF bound to heparan-sulfate rich sites demonstrated previously in the laminae rarae; however, no CF binding was seen in heparinase-digested GBM’s, confirming that the sites had been removed by the enzyme treatment. The results demonstrated that removal of heparan sulfate (but not other GAG) leads to a dramatic increase in the permeability of the GBM to NF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)688-693
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 1980


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology

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