Kidney Int. 89 (1) 243-247 [2016-01-00; online 2015-10-08]
The glomerular filtration barrier, consisting of podocyte foot processes with bridging slit diaphragm, glomerular basement membrane, and endothelium, is a key component for renal function. Previously, the subtlest elements of the filtration barrier have only been visualized using electron microscopy. However, electron microscopy is mostly restricted to ultrathin two-dimensional samples, and the possibility to simultaneously visualize multiple different proteins is limited. Therefore, we sought to implement a super-resolution immunofluorescence microscopy protocol for the study of the filtration barrier in the kidney. Recently, several optical clearing methods have been developed making it possible to image through large volumes of tissue and even whole organs using light microscopy. Here we found that hydrogel-based optical clearing is a beneficial tool to study intact renal tissue at the nanometer scale. When imaging samples using super-resolution STED microscopy, the staining quality was critical in order to assess correct nanoscale information. The signal-to-noise ratio and immunosignal homogeneity were both improved in optically cleared tissue. Thus, STED of slit diaphragms in fluorescently labeled, optically cleared, intact kidney samples is a new tool for studying the glomerular filtration barrier in health and disease.