The involvement of iron (Fe) transporters in the uptake of cadmium (Cd) was examined in Madin-Darby kidney cells (MDCK). The uptake of Cd displayed properties that are associated with the Fe transporter divalent metal transporter 1 (DMT1). For example, the uptake of Cd and Fe was reduced by altering the cell membrane potential. The uptake of Cd was blocked by Fe, and the uptake of Fe was blocked by Cd. Also, the uptake of Cd and Fe was higher in MDCK cells bathed in a buffer at low pH. Increased uptake of Fe and Cd was observed in the HEK-293 cell line overexpressing DMT1. Overnight treatment of MDCK cells with the protein kinase C activator phorbol 12,13-dibutyrate (PDBu) resulted in increased uptake of Cd and Fe and an increase in DMT1 mRNA. An increase in newly transcribed DMT1 mRNA was not observed, suggesting that PDBu does not increase DMT1 mRNA by activating transcription. Rather, the increase was most likely due to greater stability of DMT1 mRNA, because the rate of degradation of DMT1 mRNA was slower in MDCK cells treated with PDBu. Our results suggest that Fe and Cd are transported in MDCK cells by a transporter with biochemical properties similar to those of DMT1.
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