An Overview of Renal Corpuscles and Function

Peter Williams, Sarah Phenix
  • Author
    Peter Williams

    Peter holds a Bachelor's degree in Microbiology and Biotechnology, and a Master's degree in Applied Microbiology. In addition, Peter has more than two years of experience in tutoring and writing academic materials for senior and junior schools, mainly in Sciences, Languages, and Humanities.

  • Instructor
    Sarah Phenix
Understand what renal corpuscles are and see an explanation of how they function. Learn about the location, components, and anatomy of renal corpuscles. Updated: 01/24/2022

Table of Contents


What is the Renal Corpuscle?

An average human being has two kidneys which play a vital role in removing excess water, salts, and nitrogen waste from the body. Kidneys are covered by connective tissue capsule, and each kidney has two portions. The outer portion is referred to as the renal cortex, and the inner portion is the renal medulla. The functional unit of a kidney is referred to as the nephron, which is a coiled tubule made of a single cell layer. Each nephron includes the renal corpuscle, proximal convoluted tubule, the loop of Henle, distal convoluted tubule, and collecting duct. Each kidney may contain up to 1 to 4 million nephrons.

The Human Kidneys

Renal Corpuscle is Contained in the Renal Cortex, (Outer Portion of the Kidney.)

The renal corpuscle, also referred as the Malpighian corpuscle or body, is composed of the glomerulus and Bowman's capsule. Bowman's capsule is a cup-shaped structure that encloses a bunch of high-pressure capillaries referred to as glomerulus. Bowman's capsule is connected to a long tubule known as the proximal convoluted tubule. Generally, nephrons play a role in blood cleansing and maintaining a balance of blood constituents, including salt and nutrients. In addition, the renal corpuscle comprises vascular, mesangial, and epithelial components. The renal corpuscle is contained in the renal cortex portion of the kidney.

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  • 0:00 What Is A Renal Corpuscle?
  • 1:26 How Do They Filter?
  • 1:49 The Glomerulus
  • 4:04 Bowman's Capsule
  • 4:39 Lesson Summary
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Renal Corpuscle Anatomy

Glomerulus and the Bowman's capsule are the main components of the renal corpuscle, though the mesangium is also a part.

The glomerulus is a network of capillaries. It is supplied by the afferent arteriole and emptied by the efferent arteriole. The afferent arteriole has a broader diameter than the efferent arteriole, which helps maintain a high pressure inside the glomerulus. The glomerulus capillaries have endothelial cells covered by a basement membrane. A basement membrane is a specialized extracellular matrix that is thin and complex, and it is essential in numerous body tissues arrangement, development, and maintenance. This basement membrane is surrounded by a particular type of cells known as podocytes. The basement membrane, attachment apparatus of podocytes (also known as podocytes foot processes), and the capillaries endothelium form the filtration barrier.

The Bowman's capsule is formed during embryonic development. It results from the pression of the glomerular capillaries against the closed end of the proximal convoluted tubule. The outer surface of this cup-like structure is made of parietal epithelium cells - flat, scale-like cells, also referred to as squamous epithelium cells. The podocytes form the visceral layer of the Bowman's capsule. These podocytes develop from the thickening of the epithelial cells that are in contact with the glomerular capillaries. There is a space between the visceral and parietal layers known as Bowman's space. This space forms the proximal convoluted tubule's lumen (inside space) from one end. This space also contains the renal filtrate, the fluid that eventually becomes the urine.

In addition, the renal corpuscle has another component known as the mesangium, an arborizing (branch freely and differently) structure comprised of mesangial matrix and mesangial cells. The mesangial cells are located adjacent to the glomerular capillaries, and they possess the ability to contract. Mesangial cells play several vital roles such as:

  • It provides structural support of the glomerular capillaries.
  • Production of immune systems proteins such as pro-inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins.
  • In addition, they also get rid of macromolecules within the mesangium through phagocytosis. Phagocytosis involves the ingestion and elimination of molecules or particles.
  • These cells are also involved in the production of the extracellular matrix.

Some of the mesangial cells are located outside the glomerulus, i.e., they are found between the efferent and afferent arterioles. Such mesangial cells are referred to as extraglomerular mesangial cells.

Renal Corpuscle Diagram

The renal corpuscle comprises the glomerulus and Bowman's capsule, as shown in the diagram below. The afferent arteriole supplies the glomerulus while the efferent arteriole empties it.

Renal Corpuscle Structure: the Glomerulus and Bowman

The Malpighian Corpuscle

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Frequently Asked Questions

What structure is in the renal corpuscle?

The renal corpuscle is a structure comprised of the glomerulus and Bowman's capsule. The glomerulus is a bunch of capillaries, while the Bowman's capsule is a cup-shaped structure that encloses these capillaries.

What is the renal corpuscle's function?

The renal corpuscle is one of the nephron components. It is made up of the glomerulus and the Bowman's capsule. In addition, the renal corpuscle also has mesangium as its component. It helps to filter waste from the body.

What is the main function of the glomerular capsule?

The glomerular capsule is also referred to as the Bowman's capsule. It has a space known as the Bowman's space where the renal filtrate collects. This capsule also encloses the glomerulus, which performs the filtration of the blood.

Where do you find the renal corpuscles?

Renal corpuscles are contained in the renal cortex portion of the kidney. A kidney has two portions, the outer portion (renal cortex) and the inner (renal medulla).

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