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The proximal tubules of the kidney are target sites of injury by various toxicants. Cadmium (Cd+2), an environmental nephrotoxicant can cause adverse effects and overt renal damage. To decipher the mechanisms involved in nephrotoxicity, an in vitro model system is required. Mortal cultures of human proximal tubule (HPT) cells have served, as models but are difficult to acquire and do not lend themselves to stable transfection. The immortalized human proximal tubule cell line HK-2, has served as a model but it lacks vectorial active transport and shows signs of lost epithelial features. Recently a new proximal tubule cell line was developed, the RPTEC/TERT1, and the goal of this study was to determine if this cell line could serve as a model to study nephrotoxicity. Global gene expression analysis of this cell line in comparison to the HK-2 and HPT cells showed that the RPTEC/TERT1 cells had gene expression patterns similar to HPT cells when compared to the HK-2 cells. The HPT and the RPTEC/TERT1 cell line had an increased population of stem/progenitor cells co-expressing CD24 and CD133 when compared to the HK-2 cells. The level of expression of cadherins, claudins and occludin molecules was also similar between the RPTEC/TERT1 and the HPT cells. Acute exposure to Cd+2 resulted in necrosis of the RPTEC/TERT1 cells when compared to the HK-2 cells which died by apoptosis. Thus, the RPTEC/TERT1 cells are similar to HPT cells and can serve as a good model system to study mechanisms involved in toxicant induced renal damage.Human proximal tubular cultures contain CD24+/CD133+ expressing stem/progenitor cells.The RPTEC/TERT1 cell line has gene expression patterns similar to primary HPT cells.Acute cadmium exposure causes the RPTEC/TERT1 cells to die by necrosis.