Introduction to Purinergic Signaling

  • Geoffrey BurnstockEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 2041)


Purinergic signaling was proposed in 1972, after it was demonstrated that adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) was a transmitter in nonadrenergic, noncholinergic inhibitory nerves supplying the guinea-pig taenia coli. Later, ATP was identified as an excitatory cotransmitter in sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves, and it is now apparent that ATP acts as a cotransmitter in most, if not all, nerves in both the peripheral nervous system and central nervous system (CNS). ATP acts as a short-term signaling molecule in neurotransmission, neuromodulation, and neurosecretion. It also has potent, long-term (trophic) roles in cell proliferation, differentiation, and death in development and regeneration. Receptors to purines and pyrimidines have been cloned and characterized: P1 adenosine receptors (with four subtypes), P2X ionotropic nucleotide receptors (seven subtypes) and P2Y metabotropic nucleotide receptors (eight subtypes). ATP is released from different cell types by mechanical deformation, and after release, it is rapidly broken down by ectonucleotidases. Purinergic receptors were expressed early in evolution and are widely distributed on many different nonneuronal cell types as well as neurons. Purinergic signaling is involved in embryonic development and in the activities of stem cells. There is a growing understanding about the pathophysiology of purinergic signaling and there are therapeutic developments for a variety of diseases, including stroke and thrombosis, osteoporosis, pain, chronic cough, kidney failure, bladder incontinence, cystic fibrosis, dry eye, cancer, and disorders of the CNS, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s. and Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, migraine, and neuropsychiatric and mood disorders.

Key words

ATP Adenosine Cotransmission Purinoceptor Development Stem cells Thrombosis Neurodegenerative diseases Pain Cough 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology and TherapeuticsThe University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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