Purinergic signaling in special senses

Trends Neurosci. 2009 Mar;32(3):128-41. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2009.01.001. Epub 2009 Feb 18.


We consider the impact of purinergic signaling on the physiology of the special senses of vision, smell, taste and hearing. Purines (particularly ATP and adenosine) act as neurotransmitters, gliotransmitters and paracrine factors in the sensory retina, nasal olfactory epithelium, taste buds and cochlea. The associated purinergic receptor signaling underpins the sensory transduction and information coding in these sense organs. The P2 and P1 receptors mediate fast transmission of sensory signals and have modulatory roles in the regulation of synaptic transmitter release, for example in the adaptation to sensory overstimulation. Purinergic signaling regulates bidirectional neuron-glia interactions and is involved in the control of blood supply, extracellular ion homeostasis and the turnover of sensory epithelia by modulating apoptosis and progenitor proliferation. Purinergic signaling is an important player in pathophysiological processes in sensory tissues, and has both detrimental (pro-apoptotic) and supportive (e.g. initiation of cytoprotective stress-signaling cascades) effects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Purines / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Purinergic / physiology
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Purines
  • Receptors, Purinergic
  • purine