Recent studies in vivo have suggested that, in humans in the postabsorptive state, the kidneys contribute a significant fraction of systemic gluconeogenesis, and that the stimulation of renal gluconeogenesis may fully explain the increase in systemic gluconeogenesis during adrenaline infusion. Given the potential importance of human renal gluconeogenesis in various physiological and pathophysiological situations, we have conducted a study in vitro to further characterize this metabolic process and its regulation. For this, successive segments (S1, S2 and S3) of human proximal tubules were dissected and incubated with physiological concentrations of glutamine or lactate, two potential gluconeogenic substrates that are taken up by the human kidney in vivo, and glucose production was measured. The effects of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cAMP, a well established stimulator of gluconeogenesis in animal kidney tubules, were also studied in suspensions of human renal proximal tubules. The results indicate that the three successive segments have about the same capacity to synthesize glucose from glutamine; by contrast, the S2 and S3 segments synthesize more glucose from lactate than the S1 segment. In the S2 and S3 segments, lactate appears to be a better gluconeogenic precursor than glutamine. The addition of cAMP, but not of adrenaline or noradrenaline, led to the stimulation of gluconeogenesis from lactate and glutamine by human proximal tubules. These results indicate that, in the human kidney in vivo, lactate might be the main gluconeogenic precursor, and that the stimulation of renal gluconeogenesis observed in vivo upon adrenaline infusion may result from an indirect action on the renal proximal tubule.