Human rheumatoid synoviocytes express functional P2X7 receptors

J Mol Med (Berl). 2008 Aug;86(8):937-49. doi: 10.1007/s00109-008-0365-8. Epub 2008 Jun 11.


Human type B synoviocytes are involved in joint injury during rheumatic diseases by producing inflammatory mediators such as interleukin-6 (IL-6). The increased level of purine and pirimidine nucleotides in the synovial fluid of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients could activate the large family of P2 receptors. Thus, we investigated the presence of P2 receptors in human type B synoviocytes from rheumatoid joints, also evaluating whether the P2X7 receptor is involved in IL-6 release. Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction analysis revealed messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) expression for the P2X1, P2X2, P2X4, P2X5, P2X6, P2X7, P2Y1, P2Y4, P2Y11, P2Y12, P2Y13, and P2Y14 but not the P2X3, P2Y2, and P2Y6 receptors. The expression of the P2X7 receptor was confirmed by Western blot analysis. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and the P2X7 receptor agonist 2'-3'-O-(4-benzoylbenzoyl)ATP (BzATP) triggered an increase in intracellular calcium, thereby suggesting the expression of functional P2 receptors, including the P2X7 receptor. Moreover, BzATP treatment upregulated both IL-6 mRNA and protein expression. Synoviocytes spontaneously released low quantities of IL-6; the incubation with BzATP induced the release of larger amounts of the cytokine, and such a release was blunted by the P2X7 antagonist oxidized ATP. The selective P2X1 and P2X3 receptor agonist alpha,beta-methylene ATP did not affect IL-6 release. Finally, BzATP failed to induce a significant uptake of the large-molecule YO-PRO, thus suggesting the lack of pore formation after P2X7 receptor stimulation. In conclusion, among the different P2 receptors expressed on human RA type B synoviocytes, the P2X7 receptor may modulate IL-6 release but not inducing changes in cell membrane permeability.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / analogs & derivatives
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism*
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / genetics
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X7
  • Synovial Membrane / cytology
  • Synovial Membrane / metabolism*


  • Interleukin-6
  • P2RX7 protein, human
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X7
  • 3'-O-(4-benzoyl)benzoyladenosine 5'-triphosphate
  • Adenosine Triphosphate