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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2002 Aug;283(2):C569-78.

ATP potently modulates anion channel-mediated excitatory amino acid release from cultured astrocytes.

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  • 1Center for Neuropharmacology and Neuroscience, Albany Medical College, Albany, New York 12208, USA.


Volume-dependent ATP release and subsequent activation of purinergic P2Y receptors have been implicated as an autocrine mechanism triggering activation of volume-regulated anion channels (VRACs) in hepatoma cells. In the brain ATP is released by both neurons and astrocytes and participates in intercellular communication. We explored whether ATP triggers or modulates the release of excitatory amino acid (EAAs) via VRACs in astrocytes in primary culture. Under basal conditions exogenous ATP (10 microM) activated a small EAA release in 70-80% of the cultures tested. In both moderately (5% reduction of medium osmolarity) and substantially (35% reduction of medium osmolarity) swollen astrocytes, exogenous ATP greatly potentiated EAA release. The effects of ATP were mimicked by P2Y agonists and eliminated by P2Y antagonists or the ATP scavenger apyrase. In contrast, the same pharmacological maneuvers did not inhibit volume-dependent EAA release in the absence of exogenous ATP, ruling out a requirement of autocrine ATP release for VRAC activation. The ATP effect in nonswollen and moderately swollen cells was eliminated by a 5-10% increase in medium osmolarity or by anion channel blockers but was insensitive to tetanus toxin pretreatment, further supporting VRAC involvement. Our data suggest that in astrocytes ATP does not trigger EAA release itself but acts synergistically with cell swelling. Moderate cell swelling and ATP may serve as two cooperative signals in bidirectional neuron-astrocyte communication in vivo.

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