Proximal tubule endocytic apparatus as the specific renal uptake mechanism for vitamin D-binding protein/25-(OH)D3 complex (Review Article)


Dr Armando Luis Negri, Instituto de Investigaciones Metabólicas, Libertad 836 1 piso, Buenos Aires 1012, Argentina. Email:


SUMMARY:  The renal proximal tubule exhibits a very extensive apical endocytic apparatus that is involved in the reabsorption of molecules filtered in the glomeruli. Several key receptors appear to be involved in this function, which serves not only to conserve protein but also to reabsorb different vitamins in complex with their binding proteins. Recent research has established megalin as probably the most important receptor in this endocytosis process. Cubilin is another receptor identified in the proximal tubule endocytic apparatus. Because cubilin lacks transmembrane or cytoplasmic domains required for endocytosis, this receptor associates with megalin to recycle and internalize its ligands. Recent studies have shown that vitamin D-binding protein (DBP)/25-(OH)D3 complex is one of the megalin/cubilin ligands. Megalin knockout mice develop vitamin D deficiency and bone disease owing to an inability of the proximal tubules to capture the DBP/25-(OH)D3 complexes from the glomerular filtrate. In the same way, kidney-specific megalin knockout mice have severe plasma vitamin D deficiency, hypocalcaemia and serious bone disease, like the complete megalin knockout mice. Anti-cubilin antibodies inhibit cellular uptake of DBP/25-(OH)D3 by up to 70%. Anti-megalin antibodies produced a similar reduction in DBP/25-(OH)D3 endocytosis. When both antibodies were applied, impairment of DBP/25-(OH)D3 was only slightly more impaired (around 80%), suggesting that cubilin and megalin function through the same endocytic pathway. Specific forms of renal Fanconi syndrome are associated with endocytic pathway dysfunction with disruption of megalin-mediated uptake DBP/25-(OH)D3 complex, producing metabolic bone disease in affected individuals as a prominent clinical finding.