Extracellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) serves as a signal for diverse physiological functions, including spread of calcium waves between astrocytes, control of vascular oxygen supply and control of ciliary beat in the airways. ATP can be released from cells by various mechanisms. This review focuses on channel-mediated ATP release and its main enabler, Pannexin1 (Panx1). Six subunits of Panx1 form a plasma membrane channel termed 'pannexon'. Depending on the mode of stimulation, the pannexon has large conductance (500 pS) and unselective permeability to molecules less than 1.5 kD or is a small (50 pS), chloride-selective channel. Most physiological and pathological stimuli induce the large channel conformation, whereas the small conformation so far has only been observed with exclusive voltage activation of the channel. The interaction between pannexons and ATP is intimate. The pannexon is not only the conduit for ATP, permitting ATP efflux from cells down its concentration gradient, but the pannexon is also modulated by ATP. The channel can be activated by ATP through both ionotropic P2X as well as metabotropic P2Y purinergic receptors. In the absence of a control mechanism, this positive feedback loop would lead to cell death owing to the linkage of purinergic receptors with apoptotic processes. A control mechanism preventing excessive activation of the purinergic receptors is provided by ATP binding (with low affinity) to the Panx1 protein and gating the channel shut.
Keywords: ATP; Pannexin; allosteric; conductance; permeability; potassium.
© 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.