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J Biol Chem. 1999 Mar 5;274(10):6653-9.

Hetero-oligomeric assembly of P2X receptor subunits. Specificities exist with regard to possible partners.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacological and Physiological Science, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63104, USA.


P2X receptors are a distinct family of ligand-gated ion channels activated by extracellular ATP. Each of the seven identified subunit proteins (P2X1 through P2X7) has been reported to form functional homo-oligomeric channels when expressed in heterologous systems. Functional studies of native receptors, together with patterns of subunit gene expression, suggest that hetero-oligomeric assembly among members of this family may also occur. This prediction is supported by reports describing hetero-oligomeric assembly for three different recombinant subunit combinations. In this report, we systematically examined the ability of all members of the P2X receptor family to interact using a co-immunoprecipitation assay. The seven P2X receptor subunits were differentially epitope-tagged and expressed in various combinations in human embryonic kidney 293 cells. It was found that six of the seven subunits formed homo-oligomeric complexes, the exception being P2X6. When co-assembly between pairs of subunits was examined, all were able to form hetero-oligomeric assemblies with the exception of P2X7. Whereas P2X1, P2X2, P2X5, and P2X6 were able to assemble with most subunits, P2X3 and P2X4 presented a more restricted pattern of co-association. These results suggest that hetero-oligomeric assembly might underlie functional discrepancies observed between P2X responses seen in the native and recombinant settings, while providing for an increased diversity of signaling by ATP.

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