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J Neurosci. 1990 Jan;10(1):1-10.

ATP-activated channels in rat and bullfrog sensory neurons: concentration dependence and kinetics.

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  • Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


The concentration dependence and kinetics of ionic currents activated by extracellular adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) were studied in voltage-clamped dorsal root ganglion neurons from rats and bullfrogs. About 40% of neurons of both species responded to ATP with an increase in membrane conductance. The ATP-activated currents were similar in the 2 species, except that currents in rat neurons desensitized faster. In bullfrog neurons, the conductance was half-maximally activated by about 3 microM ATP; at low concentrations, the conductance increased 3- to 7-fold for a doubling in [ATP], suggesting that several ATP molecules must bind in order to activate the current. A steeper concentration-response relationship than expected from 1:1 binding was also seen in rat neurons. The current activated quickly upon application of ATP and decayed quickly when ATP was removed. Activation kinetics were faster at higher [ATP], with time constants decreasing from about 200 msec at 0.3 microM ATP to about 10 msec at 100 microM ATP. Deactivation kinetics (tau approximately 100-200 msec) were independent of the ATP concentration. The rapid activation and deactivation make it seem likely that the ATP-activated current is mediated by direct ligand binding rather than by a second-messenger system. The experimental observations can be mimicked by a simple model in which ATP must bind to 3 identical, noninteracting sites in order to activate a channel. The potency and kinetics of ATP action were voltage-dependent, with hyperpolarization slowing deactivation and increasing ATP's potency. Deactivation kinetics were also sensitive to the concentration of external Ca, becoming faster in higher Ca.

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