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Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2007 Sep;28(9):465-72. Epub 2007 Aug 10.

Liaisons dangereuses: P2X(7) and the inflammasome.

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  • 1Department of Experimental and Diagnostic Medicine, Section of General Pathology, University of Ferrara, Via Borsari, 46, Ferrara, Italy. fdv@unife.it

Abstract

Inflammation is initiated by specific pathogen constituents, in addition to intrinsic host molecules that are released by injured or dying cells. Among such host endogenous pro-inflammatory factors, nucleotides (mainly ATP) are attracting increasing interest for their potential as natural adjuvants. Extracellular ATP stimulates a family of receptors, named P2, one of which, P2X(7), is a potent mediator of interleukin (IL)-1beta and IL-18 processing and release. The mechanism and physiological significance of this unusual pro-inflammatory activity have long remained elusive. Recent data unveiling the structure and function of a novel caspase-activating platform, the inflammasome, shed light on P2X(7) receptor coupling to IL-1beta release, and suggest a fascinating scenario for the initiation and amplification of the innate immune response. Here, I outline the intriguing links between the P2X(7) receptor and the NALP3 inflammasome, review recent evidence showing that this receptor is a potent activator of this multimolecular platform and discuss implications for pathogen-immune cell interaction and for anti-inflammatory drug development.

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