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Am J Blood Res. 2013;3(1):14-28. Epub 2013 Jan 17.

Regulation of innate immunity by extracellular nucleotides.

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Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Immunology, IRCCS San Raffaele Pisana Italy.


Extracellular ATP (eATP) is the most abundant among extracellular nucleotides and is commonly considered as a classical danger signal, which stimulates immune responses in the presence of tissue injury. In fact, increased nucleotide concentration in the extracellular space is generally closely associated with tissue stress or damage. However non-lytic nucleotide release may also occur in many cell types under a variety of conditions. Extracellular nucleotides are sensed by a class of plasma membrane receptors called P2 purinergic receptors (P2Rs). P2 receptors are expressed by all immunological cells and their activation elicits different responses. Extracellular ATP can act as an initiator or terminator of immune responses being able to induce different effects on immune cells depending on the pattern of P2 receptors engaged, the duration of the stimulus and its concentration in the extracellular milieu. Millimolar (high) concentrations of extracellular ATP, induce predominantly proinflammatory effects, while micromolar (low) doses exert mainly tolerogenic/immunosuppressive action. Moreover small, but significant differences in the pattern of P2 receptor expression in mice and humans confer diverse capacities of ATP in regulating the immune response.


Extracellular nucleotides; P2 purinergic receptors; extracellular ATP; innate immunity

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