There are seven P2X receptor cDNAs currently known. Six homomeric (P2X1, P2X2, P2X3, P2X4, P2X5, P2X7) and three heteromeric (P2X2/P2X3, P2X4/P2X6, P2X1/P2X5) P2X receptor channels have been characterized in heterologous expression systems. Homomeric P2X1 and P2X3 receptors are readily distinguishable by their rapid desensitization, the agonist action of alpha beta methyleneATP, and the block by 2',3'-O-(2,4,6-trinitrophenyl)-ATP. P2X2 receptors are unique among homomeric forms in their potentiation by low pH. Homomeric P2X4 receptors are much less sensitive to antagonism by suramin and pyridoxal 5-phosphate-6-azo-2',4'-disulfonic acid. Homomeric P2X7 receptors are the only form in which 2',3'-O-(4-benzoylbenzoyl)-ATP is more potent than ATP. The heteromeric P2X2/P2X3 receptor resembles P2X2 in slow desensitization kinetics and potentiation by low pH and is similar to P2X3 with respect to agonism by alpha beta methyleneATP and block by 2',3'-O-(2,4,6-trinitrophenyl)-ATP. Other agonists, antagonists, and ions that can be used to differentiate among the receptors are discussed.