Potent and long-lasting inhibition of human P2X2 receptors by copper

Neuropharmacology. 2014 Feb;77:167-76. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2013.09.001. Epub 2013 Sep 22.


P2X receptors are ion channels gated by ATP. In rodents these channels are modulated by zinc and copper. Zinc is co-released with neurotransmitter at some synapses and can modulate neuronal activity, but the role of copper in the brain is unclear. Rat P2X2 receptors show potentiation by 2-100 μM zinc or copper in the presence of a submaximal concentration of ATP but are inhibited by zinc or copper at concentrations above 100 μM. In contrast, human P2X2 (hP2X2) receptors show no potentiation and are strongly inhibited by zinc over the range of 2-100 μM. The effect of copper on hP2X2 is of interest because there are human brain disorders in which copper concentration is altered. We found that hP2X2 receptors are potently inhibited by copper (IC50 = 40 nM). ATP responsiveness recovered extremely slowly after copper washout, with full recovery requiring over 1 h. ATP binding facilitated copper binding but not unbinding from this inhibitory site. A mutant receptor in which the first six extracellular cysteines were deleted, C(1-6)S, showed normal copper inhibition, however reducing agents dramatically accelerated recovery from copper inhibition in wild type hP2X2 and the C(1-6)S mutant, indicating that the final two disulfide bonds are required to maintain the high affinity copper binding site. Three histidine residues required for normal zinc inhibition were also required for normal copper inhibition. Humans with untreated Wilson's disease have excess amounts of copper in the brain. The high copper sensitivity of hP2X2 receptors suggests that they are non-functional in these patients.

Keywords: Copper inhibition; DMSO; DTT; P2X2 receptor; Potent; Wilson disease; dimethyl sulfoxide; dithiotreitol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Copper / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Purinergic P2X Receptor Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X2 / metabolism*
  • Species Specificity
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Purinergic P2X Receptor Antagonists
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X2
  • Copper