Transcytosis of retinol-binding protein across renal proximal tubule cells after megalin (gp 330)-mediated endocytosis

M. Marinò, D. Andrews, D. Brown, R. T. McCluskey

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59 Scopus citations


Plasma retinol-binding protein (RBP) combined with vitamin A (retinol) is partially filtered through the glomerulus and then absorbed by proximal tubule cells, leading to recycling of retinol to the circulation. Recently, it was shown that reabsorption of RBP-retinol complexes by proximal tubule cells is mediated by megalin (gp 330), an apical endocytic receptor. It was proposed that RBP is transported by megalin to lysosomes, where it is degraded, thus liberating retinol, which then combines with newly synthesized RBP to be secreted into the bloodstream. This study shows that passage of RBP through immortalized rat renal proximal tubule (IRPT) cells occurs by transcytosis after megalin-mediated endocytosis, which provides an alternative pathway for recycling of retinol. IRPT cells cultured as polarized monolayers with tight junctions were used on permeable filters in the upper chamber of dual-chambered devices, with megalin expression exclusively on the upper surface. After addition of RBP to the upper chamber and incubation at 37°C, intact RBP was found in fluids that were collected from the lower chamber. In contrast, control substances (mannitol, lysozyme, albumin, and glutathione-S-transferase) were not appreciably transported across IRPT cells, indicating that passage of RBP was by transcytosis and not by paracellular leakage. Confocal microscopy analysis of IRPT cells after addition of RBP to the upper chamber revealed RBP containing granules at the apical membrane, subapically, and also at basolateral membranes. When RBP was added to IRPT cells together with megalin competitors, the amount of transcytosed RBP was markedly reduced. We also found that some RBP was internalized and degraded by IRPT cells, but this process was not appreciably affected by megalin competitors, indicating that RBP endocytosed by megalin was not transported to lysosomes and degraded but rather transcytosed across IRPT cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-648
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Society of Nephrology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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