The P2 purinoceptors were initially defined as a family of receptors responsive to extracellular adenine nucleotides. In the late 1980s, it became clear that extracellular uridine nucleotides are also able to modulate cell function. The existence of a nucleotide receptor, common to ATP and UTP, was suggested by indirect pharmacological arguments (for instance the lack of additivity and the cross-desensitization of the responses to the two nucleotides) and later demonstrated by the cloning of a P2U receptor equally responsive to ATP and UTP. Vascular endothelial cells are a paradigm of cells on which both ATP and UTP exert physiologically relevant effects (stimulation of prostacyclin and nitric oxide release). Their response to nucleotides is mediated by two distinct receptors, both coupled to phospholipase C: a specific purinoceptor responsive to ATP and ADP (P2Y) and a nucleotide receptor responsive to ATP and UTP (P2U). We have recently cloned from the human genome a new subtype of receptor (tentatively called P2Y4), which is structurally related to the P2U receptor. Functional expression revealed its coupling to phospholipase C and its selective responsiveness to UTP and UDP. According to the new nomenclature, the P2 receptors that are coupled to G proteins belong to the P2Y family. It now appears that this family encompasses specific purinoceptors (P2Y1, formerly called P2Y), nucleotide receptors common to ATP and UTP (P2Y2, previously P2U) and selective pyrimidinoceptors (P2Y4). The existence of these pyrimidinoceptors suggests that uridine nucleotides may play a role as intercellular mediators, independently from adenine nucleotides.