Osmotic swelling induces the release of intracellular ATP in a number of cell types. In the immediate vicinity of the cell surface, released ATP has been shown to reach a concentration high enough to stimulate P2-purinergic receptors in a human epithelial cell line, Intestine 407. The role of released ATP in the regulatory volume decrease (RVD) after cell swelling was thus studied in Intestine 407 cells. The RVD was suppressed by an ATP hydrolyzing enzyme, apyrase, or by a purinergic receptor antagonist, suramin. Extracellular application of ATP accelerated the RVD rate in a concentration-dependent manner. An increase in the cytosolic free-Ca(2+) concentration was induced by a hypotonic challenge, and the swelling-induced Ca(2+) response was partially suppressed by apyrase or suramin. A rise in cytosolic Ca(2+) was also induced by extracellular application of ATP or UTP, but not ADP, 2-methylthio-ATP or alpha,beta-methylene ATP. The ATP-induced Ca(2+) response was blocked by suramin. Therefore, it is concluded that RVD is facilitated by ATP, which is released upon cell swelling, by augmenting intracellular Ca(2+) rise via the stimulation of purinergic (P2Y(2)) receptors in the human epithelial cell.