Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Cadmium Impairs Albumin Reabsorption by Down-Regulating Megalin and CIC5 Channels in Renal Proximal Tubule Cells

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Cadmium Impairs Albumin Reabsorption by Down-Regulating Megalin and CIC5 Channels in Renal Proximal Tubule Cells

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND: Cadmium (Cd) is a potent nephrotoxicant that impairs the reabsorptive and secretory functions of the renal proximal tubule, leading to albuminuria.

OBJECTIVES: To gain insights into the mechanisms of Cd-induced albuminuria, we investigated effects of Cd on the expression of megalin and chloride channel 5 (ClC5), two key players in albumin-receptor--mediated endocytosis.

METHODS: We used quantitative polymerase chain reaction, Western blotting, the albumin endocytosis assay, and confocal microscopy to evaluate effects of Cd on the expression and regulation of megalin and ClC5 in cultured LLC-PK1 cells, a pig proximal tubular cell model.

RESULTS: Ten micromolar cadmium chloride ([CdCl.sub.2]) caused a significant time- and dose-dependent decrease in both mRNA and protein levels of megalin and ClC5, whereas no changes resulted from exposure to other divalent metals (zinc chloride, manganese chloride, magnesium chloride, and nickel chloride). After inhibiting protein synthesis using cycloheximide (CHX), we found that levels of both megalin and CLC5 were lower in Cd-challenged cells than in cells treated with Cd or CHX only, which is consistent with reduced translation and/or posttranslational down-regulation. Moreover, Cd-induced degradation of megalin and ClC5 was abolished by the lysosomal pathway inhibitor bafilomycin A-1 but not by the proteasome system blocker MG-132, suggesting that the enhanced proteolysis was occurring via lysosomes. Using confocal microscopy, we observed a remarkable reduction of fluoroisothiocyanate (FITC)-labeled albumin uptake after Cd exposure.

CONCLUSIONS: We found that Cd reduced the transcriptional expression of megalin and ClC5 and, at the same time, increased the degradation of megalin and ClC5 proteins via the lysosomal pathway in an in vitro model of renal proximal tubular cells. Overall, these results provide valuable insights into the molecular mechanisms by which Cd impairs luminal protein reabsorption by renal proximal tubules.

KEY WORDS: albuminuria, cadmium, ClC5, heavy metals, megalin, nephrotoxicity, renal proximal tubules. Environ Health Perspect 118:1551-1556 (2010). doi:10.1289/ehp.0901874 [Online 24 June 2010]


Cadmium (Cd) is a well-known occupational and environmental hazard with a potent nephrotoxic action. Cd concentrates in several vital organs, among which liver and kidney are the primary targets that accumulate and are affected adversely by this toxic heavy metal (Zalups and Ahmad 2002). A body of studies provided meaningful insights into the Cd uptake and accumulation into renal cells (Endo and Shaikh 1993; Zalups and Ahmad 2002). Once within the cell, Cd reacts with thiol groups and may substitute for zinc (Zn) in critical metabolic processes, but it can also cause DNA single-strand breaks, lipid peroxidation, and generation of oxidatively damaged proteins (Bertin and Averbeck 2006). Enterally absorbed Cd is taken up by the liver, where a significant amount of its ionized form ([Cd.sup.2+]) is bound to metallothioneins (MTs), leading to hepatocellular necrosis and/or apoptosis, with the consequent release of Cd-MT complexes into the bloodstream. Some of these complexes are delivered to the kidneys, where they are filtered by the glomeruli and reabsorbed by the proximal tubules (Zalups and Ahmad 2002). Kidneys can accumulate up to 50% of the total body burden of Cd in subjects occupationally and environmentally exposed (Jarup 2002), causing a decrease in tubular reabsorption and leading to proximal tubulopathies characterizing renal Fanconi's syndrome (Hamada et al. 1997; Prozialeck et al. 1993). Although Cd-induced nephrotoxicity is widely studied, the molecular mechanisms underlying the damage and subsequent regeneration of the renal tubular epithelium remain elusive.

An extensive endocytic apparatus, located in the apical membrane of proximal tubule cells, plays a key role in the reabsorption and degradation of glomerular-filtered albumin and low-molecular-weight proteins (Marshansky et al. …

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