Purinergic signaling and microglia

Pflugers Arch. 2006 Aug;452(5):615-21. doi: 10.1007/s00424-006-0064-7. Epub 2006 Jun 21.


Microglial cells are considered as the pathologic sensors of the brain. In this paper, we review mechanisms of purinergic signaling in microglia. As ATP is not only considered as a physiological signaling substance but is also elevated in pathology, it is not surprising that microglia express a variety of P2X, P2Y and adenosin receptors. As a rapid physiological event, ATP triggers a cationic conductance, increases the potassium conductance and also elicits a calcium response. As a long-term effect, purinergic receptor activation is linked to the movement of microglial processes and, in the context of pathology, to chemotaxis. The purinoreceptors also modulate the release of substances from microglia, such as cytokines, nitric oxide, or superoxide, which are important in the context of a pathologic response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology*
  • Microglia / cytology
  • Microglia / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2 / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Receptors, Purinergic P2
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Calcium