We examined the expression of calcium transporter 1 (CaT1) and epithelial calcium channel (ECaC) mRNA in the duodenum and kidney of mice. Intestinal CaT1 mRNA level increased 30-fold at weaning, coincident with the induction of calbindin-D(9k) expression. In contrast, renal CaT1 and ECaC mRNA expression was equal until weaning when ECaC mRNA is induced and CaT1 mRNA levels fall 70%. Long- and short-term adaptation to changes in dietary calcium (Ca) level and 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D(3) [1,25(OH)(2)D(3)] injection strongly regulated duodenal calbindin D(9k) and CaT1 mRNA. Following a single dose of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3), induction of CaT1 mRNA occurred rapidly (within 3 h, peak at 6 h of 9.6 +/- 0.8-fold) and preceded the induction of intestinal Ca absorption (significantly increased at 6 h, peak at 9 h). Neither renal CaT1 nor ECaC mRNA were strongly regulated by dietary calcium level or 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) injection. Our data indicate that CaT1 and ECaC mRNA levels are differentially regulated by 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) in kidney and intestine and that there may be a specialized role for CaT1 in kidney in fetal and neonatal development. The rapid induction of intestinal CaT1 mRNA expression by 1,25(OH)(2)D(3), and the marked induction at weaning, suggest that CaT1 is critical for 1,25(OH)(2)D(3)-mediated intestinal Ca absorption.