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Eur J Pharmacol. 2004 Jan 1;483(1):5-17.

Molecular physiology of P2 receptors in the central nervous system.

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Rudolf-Boehm-Institute of Pharmacology, University of Leipzig, Haertelstrasse 16-18, 04107 Leipzig, Germany.


Neurons of the central nervous system (CNS) are endowed with ATP-sensitive receptors belonging to the P2X (ligand-gated cationic channels) and P2Y (G protein-coupled receptors) types. Whereas a number of P2X receptors mediate fast synaptic responses to the transmitter ATP, P2Y receptors mediate either slow changes of the membrane potential in response to non-synaptically released ATP or the interaction with receptors for other transmitters. To date seven P2X and seven P2Y receptors of human origin have been molecularly identified and functionally characterized. P2X subunits may occur as homooligomers or as heterooligomeric assemblies of more than one subunit. P2X(7) subunits do not form heterooligomeric assemblies and are unique in mediating apoptosis and necrosis of glial cells and possibly also of neurons. The P2X(2), P2X(4), P2X(4)/P2X(6) and P2Y(1) receptors appear to be the predominant neuronal types. The localisation of these receptors may be at the somato-dendritic region (postsynaptic) or at the nerve terminals (presynaptic). Postsynaptic P2 receptors appear to be mostly excitatory, while presynaptic P2 receptors may be either excitatory (P2X) or inhibitory (P2Y). Since in the CNS the stimulation of a single neuron may activate multiple networks, a concomitant stimulation of facilitatory and inhibitory circuits as a result of ATP release is also possible. Finally, the enzymatic degradation of ATP may lead to the local generation of adenosine which can modulate via A(1) or A(2A) receptor-activation the ATP effect.

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