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The role of megalin in the regulation of renal vitamin D homeostasis has previously been evaluated in megalin-knockout mice and rat proximal tubule epithelial cells. We revisited these hypotheses that were previously tested solely in rodent models, this time using a 3-dimensional proximal tubule microphysiological system incorporating primary human proximal tubule epithelial cells. Using this human cell-derived model, we confirmed that 25OHD3 is transported into the human proximal tubule epithelium via megalin-mediated endocytosis while bound to vitamin D binding protein. Building upon these findings, we then evaluated the role of megalin in modulating the cellular uptake and biological activity of 1α,25(OH)2D3. Inhibition of megalin function decreased the 1α,25(OH)2D3-mediated induction of both cytochrome P450 24A1 protein levels and 24-hydroxylation activity following perfusion with vitamin D binding protein and 1α,25(OH)2D3. The potential for reciprocal effects from 1α,25(OH)2D3 on megalin expression were also tested. Contrary to previously published observations from rat proximal tubule epithelial cells, 1α,25(OH)2D3 did not induce megalin gene expression, thus highlighting the potential for meaningful interspecies differences in the homeostatic regulation of megalin in rodents and humans. These findings challenge a recently promoted hypothesis, predicated on the rodent cell data, that attempts to connect 1α,25(OH)2D3-mediated regulation of renal megalin expression and the pathology of chronic kidney disease in humans. In addition to providing specific insights related to the importance of renal megalin in vitamin D homeostasis, these results constitute a proof-of-concept that human-derived microphysiological systems are a suitable replacement for animal models for quantitative pharmacology and physiology research.
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