The plasma membrane calcium pump (PMCA) is ubiquitously expressed in calcium transporting epithelia. PMCA is encoded by four distinct genes (PMCA1-4) which can be further posttranscriptionally modified, PMCA1b is the only isoform of PMCA1 expressed in kidney and intestine. Calcitriol upregulates PMCA protein expression and activity and PMCA1 mRNA expression in the intestine. Calcitriol has a similar effect on kidney distal tubule PMCA activity in vivo but the cellular basis for this effect has not been studied. PMCA expression in Madin-Darby bovine kidney (MDBK) cells, a distal kidney tubule cell line, was compared with a proximal tubule (LLC-PK1) and embryonic (HEK 293) kidney cell line. Only MDBK cells express PMCA1b mRNA and PMCA protein. In MDBK cells, calcitriol increased steady state expression of PMCA1b mRNA and protein and upregulated the functional activity of PMCA on calcium transport to a similar degree. Furthermore, calcitriol enhanced PMCA1b mRNA stability. These data are consistent with in vivo localization studies demonstrating the distal kidney tubule localization of PMCA protein, Furthermore, they indicate that calcitriol is an important regulator of PMCA activity in the kidney distal tubule by a pathway that includes translation and posttranscriptional modification of PMCA1b. (C) 2000 Academic Press.