ATP release during seizures - A critical evaluation of the evidence

Brain Res Bull. 2019 Sep:151:65-73. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2018.12.021. Epub 2019 Jan 17.


That adenosine 5' triphosphate (ATP) functions as an extracellular signaling molecule has been established since the 1970s. Ubiquitous throughout the body as the principal molecular store of intracellular energy, ATP has a short extracellular half-life and is difficult to measure directly. Extracellular ATP concentrations are dependent both on the rate of cellular release and of enzymatic degradation. Some findings from in vitro studies suggest that extracellular ATP concentrations increase during high levels of neuronal activity and seizure-like events in hippocampal slices. Pharmacological studies suggest that antagonism of ATP-sensitive purinergic receptors can suppress the severity of seizures and block epileptogenesis. Directly measuring extracellular ATP concentrations in the brain, however, has a number of specific challenges, notably, the rapid hydrolysis of ATP and huge gradient between intracellular and extracellular compartments. Two studies using microdialysis found no change in extracellular ATP in the hippocampus of rats during experimentally-induced status epilepticus. One of which demonstrated that ATP increased measurably, only in the presence of ectoATPase inhibitors, with the other study demonstrating increases only during later spontaneous seizures. Current evidence is mixed and seems highly dependent on the model used and method of detection. More sensitive methods of detection with higher spatial resolution, which induce less tissue disruption will be necessary to provide evidence for or against the hypothesis of seizure-induced elevations in extracellular ATP. Here we describe the current hypothesis for ATP release during seizures and its role in epileptogenesis, describe the technical challenges involved and critically examine the current evidence.

Keywords: ATP; Epilepsy; Purines; Seizures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / analysis
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / physiology
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epilepsy / metabolism*
  • Epilepsy / pathology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Seizures / metabolism*
  • Seizures / pathology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Adenosine Triphosphate