Cellular mechanism of aminoglycoside tolerance in long-term gentamicin treatment

David P. Sundin, Chris Meyer, Rolf Dahl, Alison Geerdes, Ruben Sandoval, Bruce A. Molitoris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


In the rat, nephrotoxicity results from uptake of gentamicin at the apical membrane of proximal tubule (PT) cells. However, during continuous gentamicin treatment, the PT epithelium has been shown to recover. The mechanism(s) of cellular recovery and development of tolerance remains unknown. Therefore, we undertook studies designed to characterize cellular adaptations that occur during long-term gentamicin (LTG) treatment. After 19 days of gentamicin treatment, electron microscopy morphological evaluation revealed cellular recovery with an apparent mild decrease in height and number of microvilli. Enzymatic analysis of LTG PT membranes showed that apical and basolateral membranes had essentially returned to normal. Analysis of apical membrane lipid content revealed persistent statistically significant (P < 0.01) elevations in phosphatidylinositol (PI). In vivo immunogold morphological studies and biochemical studies in LTG rats revealed that endocytosis of gentamicin was selectively reduced, whereas the markers of fluid-phase (horseradish peroxidase) and receptor-mediated (β2- microglobulin) endocytoses were unaffected or increased. Biochemical analysis showed that, although gentamicin binding to apical membranes isolated from LTG rats increased greater than twofold (P < 0.05) over membranes from untreated rats, in vivo cellular uptake, quantified with [3H]gentamicin, was reduced. Western blot analysis of LTG apical membranes and immunofluorescent staining of perfusion-fixed LTG kidneys showed no change in megalin levels or its apical membrane localization. These data imply that recovery of PT cells from and tolerance to LTG treatment involve a selective inhibition of gentamicin uptake across the apical membrane. They indicate that the mediators of gentamicin endocytosis were affected differently: PI levels increased, whereas megalin levels did not change. We conclude that selective inhibition of gentamicin uptake during LTG treatment is not affected by a reduction in PI or megalin levels. We postulate that trafficking of gentamicin and/or gentamicin-containing endocytic structures is reduced in LTG rats, allowing cells to develop tolerance to gentamicin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C1309-C1318
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number4 41-4
StatePublished - 1997


  • brush-border membranes
  • immunogold labeling
  • proximal tubule cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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