Extracellular adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) activates cell surface P2X and P2Y receptors. P2X receptors are membrane ion channels preferably permeable to sodium, potassium and calcium that open within milliseconds of the binding of ATP. In molecular architecture, they form a unique structural family. The receptor is a trimer, the binding of ATP between subunits causes them to flex together within the ectodomain and separate in the membrane-spanning region so as to open a central channel. P2X receptors have a widespread tissue distribution. On some smooth muscle cells, P2X receptors mediate the fast excitatory junction potential that leads to depolarization and contraction. In the central nervous system, activation of P2X receptors allows calcium to enter neurons and this can evoke slower neuromodulatory responses such as the trafficking of receptors for the neurotransmitter glutamate. In primary afferent nerves, P2X receptors are critical for the initiation of action potentials when they respond to ATP released from sensory cells such as taste buds, chemoreceptors or urothelium. In immune cells, activation of P2X receptors triggers the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin 1β. The development of selective blockers of different P2X receptors has led to clinical trials of their effectiveness in the management of cough, pain, inflammation and certain neurodegenerative diseases.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Evolution brings Ca2+ and ATP together to control life and death’.
One contribution of 15 to a Theo Murphy meeting issue ‘Evolution brings Ca2+ and ATP together to control life and death’.
- Accepted March 23, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.