[Frontiers in Bioscience E3, 896-900, June 1, 2011]

Introductory overview of purinergic signalling

Geoffrey Burnstock1

1Autonomic Neuroscience Centre, University College Medical School, Rowland Hill Street, London NW3 2PF, UK


1. Abstract
2. Introduction: ATP as a transmitter in non-adrenergic, non-cholinergic nerves
3. Receptors to purines and pyrimidines
4. Physiology and pathophysiology of purinergic signaling
5. Conclusions
6. References


Purinergic neurotransmission was proposed in 1972 following identification of adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) as the transmitter in non-adrenergic, non-cholinergic inhibitory nerves in guinea-pig taenia coli. Subsequently ATP was identified as a co-transmitter in sympathetic, parasympathetic and most nerves in the peripheral and central nervous systems. ATP acts as a short-term signalling molecule in neurotransmission, neuromodulation and secretion and has long-term (trophic) roles in cell proliferation, differentiation and death in development and regeneration. Three subclasses of purine and pyrimidine receptors have been identified, P1 adenosine (4 subtypes), P2X ionotropic nucleotide (7 subtypes) and P2Y metabotropic receptors (8 subtypes). ATP is released physiologically by many cell types by mechanical deformation and, after release, ATP undergoes ectonucleotidase degradation. Purinergic receptors appeared early in evolution and have a widespread distribution on many non-neuronal cell and neurons. Purinergic signalling is involved in embryonic and stem cell development. There is a rapidly growing literature about the pathophysiology of purinergic signalling including therapeutic developments for diseases, including stroke, thrombosis, osteoporosis, kidney failure, bladder incontinence, cystic fibrosis, dry eye, cancer and brain disorders.