Purinergic regulation of the immune system

Nat Rev Immunol. 2016 Mar;16(3):177-92. doi: 10.1038/nri.2016.4.


Cellular stress or apoptosis triggers the release of ATP, ADP and other nucleotides into the extracellular space. Extracellular nucleotides function as autocrine and paracrine signalling molecules by activating cell-surface P2 purinergic receptors that elicit pro-inflammatory immune responses. Over time, extracellular nucleotides are metabolized to adenosine, leading to reduced P2 signalling and increased signalling through anti-inflammatory adenosine (P1 purinergic) receptors. Here, we review how local purinergic signalling changes over time during tissue responses to injury or disease, and we discuss the potential of targeting purinergic signalling pathways for the immunotherapeutic treatment of ischaemia, organ transplantation, autoimmunity or cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Purines / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*


  • Purines