The glomerular size selectivity was determined by neutral dextran clearance sieving technique and plasma cystatin C levels in two groups of patients with long-standing type I diabetes mellitus and different stages of albuminuria but normal glomerular filtration rate and in a group of healthy controls. The sieving characteristics of the glomerular filter were determined using a mathematical model of log normal pore size distribution. Patients with albuminuria above 200 μg/min exhibited a significant increase of cystatin c plasma concentrations and a significant reduction in mean glomerular filtration slit size. Only these patients exhibited large, unrestrictive pores in the glomerular filter (shunt). The plasma cystatin c levels correlated significantly with 26-angstrom neutral dextran plasma levels in microalbuminuric patients and in patients with albuminuria above 200 μg/ min. We conclude that a reduction in average pore size of the glomerular filter does not occur earlier than the development of large shunt pores. The renal clearance of cystatin c in patients with proteinuric diabetic nephropathy but a normal glomerular filtration rate is reduced due to its molecular size.