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Purinergic Signal. 2008 Sep;4(3):237-53. doi: 10.1007/s11302-007-9087-6. Epub 2007 Dec 11.

Purinergic receptors in the endocrine and exocrine pancreas.

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Department of Biosciences, University of Copenhagen, August Krogh Building, Universitetsparken 13, 2100, Copenhagen Ø, Denmark,


The pancreas is a complex gland performing both endocrine and exocrine functions. In recent years there has been increasing evidence that both endocrine and exocrine cells possess purinergic receptors, which influence processes such as insulin secretion and epithelial ion transport. Most commonly, these processes have been viewed separately. In beta cells, stimulation of P2Y(1) receptors amplifies secretion of insulin in the presence of glucose. Nucleotides released from secretory granules could also contribute to autocrine/paracrine regulation in pancreatic islets. In addition to P2Y(1) receptors, there is also evidence for other P2 and adenosine receptors in beta cells (P2Y(2), P2Y(4), P2Y(6), P2X subtypes and A(1) receptors) and in glucagon-secreting alpha cells (P2X(7), A(2) receptors). In the exocrine pancreas, acini release ATP and ATP-hydrolysing and ATP-generating enzymes. P2 receptors are prominent in pancreatic ducts, and several studies indicate that P2Y(2), P2Y(4), P2Y(11), P2X(4) and P2X(7) receptors could regulate secretion, primarily by affecting Cl(-) and K(+) channels and intracellular Ca(2+) signalling. In order to understand the physiology of the whole organ, it is necessary to consider the full complement of purinergic receptors on different cells as well as the structural and functional relation between various cells within the whole organ. In addition to the possible physiological function of purinergic receptors, this review analyses whether the receptors could be potential therapeutic targets for drug design aimed at treatment of pancreatic diseases.

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