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J Physiol. 2012 Sep 1;590(17):4335-50. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.236265. Epub 2012 Jun 25.

P2Y2 receptor activation opens pannexin-1 channels in rat carotid body type II cells: potential role in amplifying the neurotransmitter ATP.

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Department of Biology, McMaster University, 1280 Main St. West, Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4K1, Canada.


Signal processing in the carotid body (CB) is initiated at receptor glomus (or type I) cells which depolarize and release the excitatory neurotransmitter ATP during chemoexcitation by hypoxia and acid hypercapnia. Glomus cell clusters (GCs) occur in intimate association with glia-like type II cells which express purinergic P2Y2 receptors (P2Y2Rs) but their function is unclear. Here we immunolocalize the gap junction-like protein channel pannexin-1 (Panx-1) in type II cells and show Panx-1 mRNA expression in the rat CB. As expected, type II cell activation within or near isolated GCs by P2Y2R agonists, ATP and UTP (100 μm), induced a rise in intracellular [Ca(2+)]. Moreover in perforated-patch whole cell recordings from type II cells, these agonists caused a prolonged depolarization and a concentration-dependent, delayed opening of non-selective ion channels that was prevented by Panx-1 blockers, carbenoxolone (5 μm) and 4,4'-diisothiocyano-2,2'-stilbenedisulfonic acid (DIDS; 10 μm). Because Panx-1 channels serve as conduits for ATP release, we hypothesized that paracrine, type II cell P2Y2R activation leads to ATP-induced ATP release. In proof-of-principle experiments we used co-cultured chemoafferent petrosal neurones (PNs), which express P2X2/3 purinoceptors, as sensitive biosensors of ATP released from type II cells. In several cases, UTP activation of type II cells within or near GCs led to depolarization or increased firing in nearby PNs, and the effect was reversibly abolished by the selective P2X2/3 receptor blocker, pyridoxalphosphate-6-azophenyl-2',4'-disulphonic acid (PPADS; 10 μm). We propose that CB type II cells may function as ATP amplifiers during chemotransduction via paracrine activation of P2Y2Rs and Panx-1 channels.

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