P2 receptors and neuronal injury

Pflugers Arch. 2006 Aug;452(5):622-44. doi: 10.1007/s00424-006-0071-8. Epub 2006 Apr 28.


Extracellular adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) was proposed to be an activity-dependent signaling molecule that regulates glia-glia and glia-neuron communications. ATP is a neurotransmitter of its own right and, in addition, a cotransmitter of other classical transmitters such as glutamate or GABA. The effects of ATP are mediated by two receptor families belonging either to the P2X (ligand-gated cationic channels) or P2Y (G protein-coupled receptors) types. P2X receptors are responsible for rapid synaptic responses, whereas P2Y receptors mediate slow synaptic responses and other types of purinergic signaling involved in neuronal damage/regeneration. ATP may act at pre- and postsynaptic sites and therefore, it may participate in the phenomena of long-term potentiation and long-term depression of excitatory synaptic transmission. The release of ATP into the extracellular space, e.g., by exocytosis, membrane transporters, and connexin hemichannels, is a widespread physiological process. However, ATP may also leave cells through their plasma membrane damaged by inflammation, ischemia, and mechanical injury. Functional responses to the activation of multiple P2 receptors were found in neurons and glial cells under normal and pathophysiological conditions. P2 receptor-activation could either be a cause or a consequence of neuronal cell death/glial activation and may be related to detrimental and/or beneficial effects. The present review aims at demonstrating that purinergic mechanisms correlate with the etiopathology of brain insults, especially because of the massive extracellular release of ATP, adenosine, and other neurotransmitters after brain injury. We will focus in this review on the most important P2 receptor-mediated neurodegenerative and neuroprotective processes and their beneficial modulation by possible therapeutic manipulations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2 / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Receptors, Purinergic P2
  • Adenosine Triphosphate