ATP: an extracellular signaling molecule between neurons and glia

Trends Neurosci. 2000 Dec;23(12):625-33. doi: 10.1016/s0166-2236(00)01674-x.


Recent studies on Schwann cells at the neuromuscular junction and non-synaptic regions of premyelinated axons indicate that extracellular ATP can act as an activity-dependent signaling molecule in communication between neurons and glia. Several mechanisms have been observed for the regulated release of ATP from synaptic and non-synaptic regions, and a diverse family of receptors for extracellular ATP has been characterized. The findings suggest functional consequences of neuron-glial communication beyond homeostasis of the extracellular environment surrounding neurons, including regulating synaptic strength, gene expression, mitotic rate, and differentiation of glia according to impulse activity in neural circuits.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Ganglia, Spinal / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neuroglia / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Purinergic / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Synapses / metabolism*


  • Receptors, Purinergic
  • Adenosine Triphosphate