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Med Hypotheses. 2002 Feb;58(2):171-6.

A pulsed DC electric field affects P2-purinergic receptor functions by altering the ATP levels in in vitro and in vivo systems.

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Department of Physiology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa.


Recently it was shown that extracellular ATP, acting through purinergic receptors, has many physiological functions, including opening of Ca(2+)-ion channels, activation and mediation of signal transduction mechanisms as well as activation of the pain sensation. Since electrical stimulation is also known to affect many signal transduction processes as well as the alleviation of pain, we hypothesized that electric stimulation may affect the extracellular release of ATP. We investigated the effects of a small DC electric field (10(1)--10(2) V m(-1) range and with frequencies below 150 Hz) on the release of ATP in vitro (HeLa cells), and on the levels of ATP in vivo (the plasma of healthy volunteers). In HeLa cells ATP release was increased 50 fold, while the total amount of ATP in the cells was increased by 163%. In the plasma a significant decrease (P<0.05) in ATP concentration was seen after electrical stimulation, in all the volunteers. The small DC electric field also affected the cAMP signal transduction system in vitro (HeLa cells and human lymphocytes) and in vivo (human plasma). Decreased levels of cAMP (P<0.05) were seen in HeLa cells and increased levels of cAMP (P<0.05) in isolated human lymphocytes. The cAMP levels in the plasma of the electrically treated volunteers were lower than control values. These results show that the frequency, waveform and signal strength of the applied electric field are suitable for effecting measurable changes on signal transduction in vitro and in vivo.

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