The P2X7 receptor (P2X7R) is a known and powerful activator of the NOD-like receptor (NLR)P3 inflammasome; however, the underlying pathways are poorly understood. Thus, we investigated the molecular mechanisms involved. The effect of P2X7R expression and activation on NLRP3 expression and recruitment was investigated by Western blot, RT-PCR, coimmunoprecipitation, and confocal microscopy in microglial mouse cell lines selected for reduced P2X7R expression and in primary cells from P2X7R(-/-) C57BL/6 mice. We show here that P2X7R activation by ATP (EC₅₀ = 1 mM) or benzoyl-ATP (EC₅₀ = 300 μM) and P2X7R down-modulation caused a 2- to 8-fold up-regulation of NLRP3 mRNA in mouse N13 microglial cells. Moreover, NLRP3 mRNA was also up-regulated in primary microglial and macrophage cells from P2X7R(-/-) mice. Confocal microscopy and immunoprecipitation assays showed that P2X7R and NLRP3 closely interacted at discrete subplasmalemmal sites. Finally, P2X7R stimulation caused a transient (3-4 min) cytoplasmic Ca(2+) increase localized to small (2-3 µm wide) discrete subplasmalemmal regions. The Ca(2+) increase drove P2X7R recruitment and a 4-fold increase in P2X7R/NLRP3 association within 1-2 min. These data show a close P2X7R and NLRP3 interaction and highlight the role of P2X7R in the localized cytoplasmic ion changes responsible for both NLRP3 recruitment and activation.
Keywords: extracellular ATP; inflammation; purinergic receptors.