Nonsynaptic and nonvesicular ATP release from neurons and relevance to neuron-glia signaling

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2011 Apr;22(2):214-9. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2011.02.009. Epub 2011 Feb 12.


Studies on the release of ATP from neurons began with the earliest investigations of quantal neurotransmitter release in the 1950s, but in contrast to ATP release from other cells, studies of ATP release from neurons have been narrowly constrained to one mechanism, vesicular release. This is a consequence of the prominence of synaptic transmission in neuronal communication, but nonvesicular mechanisms for ATP release from neurons are likely to have a broader range of functions than synaptic release. Investigations of activity-dependent communication between axons and myelinating glia have stimulated a search for mechanisms that could release ATP from axons and other nonsynaptic regions in response to action potential firing. This has identified volume-activated anion channels as an important mechanism in activity-dependent ATP release from axons, and renewed interest in micromechanical changes in axons that accompany action potential firing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Shape
  • Humans
  • Neuroglia / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Adenosine Triphosphate