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Biochem J. 2004 Jun 1;380(Pt 2):329-38.

Ca2+ waves in keratinocytes are transmitted to sensory neurons: the involvement of extracellular ATP and P2Y2 receptor activation.

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Division of Pharmacology, National Institute of Health Sciences, 1-18-1 Kamiyoga, Setagaya, Tokyo 158-8501, Japan.


ATP acts as an intercellular messenger in a variety of cells. In the present study, we have characterized the propagation of Ca2+ waves mediated by extracellular ATP in cultured NHEKs (normal human epidermal keratinocytes) that were co-cultured with mouse DRG (dorsal root ganglion) neurons. Pharmacological characterization showed that NHEKs express functional metabotropic P2Y2 receptors. When a cell was gently stimulated with a glass pipette, an increase in [Ca2+]i (intracellular Ca2+ concentration) was observed, followed by the induction of propagating Ca2+ waves in neighbouring cells in an extracellular ATP-dependent manner. Using an ATP-imaging technique, the release and diffusion of ATP in NHEKs were confirmed. DRG neurons are known to terminate in the basal layer of keratinocytes. In a co-culture of NHEKs and DRG neurons, mechanical-stimulation-evoked Ca2+ waves in NHEKs caused an increase in [Ca2+]i in the adjacent DRG neurons, which was also dependent on extracellular ATP and the activation of P2Y2 receptors. Taken together, extracellular ATP is a dominant messenger that forms intercellular Ca2+ waves in NHEKs. In addition, Ca2+ waves in NHEKs could cause an increase in [Ca2+]i in DRG neurons, suggesting a dynamic cross-talk between skin and sensory neurons mediated by extracellular ATP.

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