P2X7 receptor (P2X7R), a distinct ligand-gated ion channel, is a member of purinergic type 2 receptor family with ubiquitous expression in human body. Previous studies have revealed a pivotal role of P2X7R in innate and adaptive immunity. Once activated, it will meditate some vital cascaded responses including the assembly of nucleotide-binding domain (NOD) like receptor protein 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome, non-classical secretion of IL-1β, modulation of cytokine-independent pathways in inflammation such as P2X7R- transglutaminase-2 (TG2) and P2X7R-cathepsin pathway, activation and regulation of T cells, etc. In fact, above responses have been identified to be involved in the development of autoimmunity, specifically, the NLRP3 inflammasome could promote inflammation in massive autoimmune diseases and TG2, as well as cathepsin may contribute to joint destruction and degeneration in inflammatory arthritis. Recently, numerous evidences further suggested the significance of P2X7R in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), multiple sclerosis (MS), etc. In this review, we will succinctly discuss the biological characteristics and summarize the recent progress of the involvement of P2X7R in the development and pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases, as well as its clinical implications and therapeutic potential.
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