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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Jul 23;99(15):9840-5. Epub 2002 Jul 3.

Intercellular calcium signaling mediated by point-source burst release of ATP.

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Department of Cell Biology, Anatomy, and Pathology, New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY 10595, USA.


Calcium signaling, manifested as intercellular waves of rising cytosolic calcium, is, in many cell types, the result of calcium-induced secretion of ATP and activation of purinergic receptors. The mechanism by which ATP is released has hitherto not been established. Here, we show by real-time bioluminescence imaging that ATP efflux is not uniform across a field of cells but is restricted to brief, abrupt point-source bursts. The ATP bursts emanate from single cells and manifest the transient opening of nonselective membrane channels, which admits fluorescent indicators of < or = 1.5 kDa. These observations challenge the existence of regenerative ATP release, because ATP efflux is finite and restricted to a point source. Transient efflux of cytosolic nucleotides from a subset of cells may represent a conserved pathway for coordinating local activity of electrically nonexcitable cells, because identical patterns of ATP release were identified in human astrocytes, endothelial cells, and bronchial epithelial cells.

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