P2 receptor modulation and cytotoxic function in cultured CNS neurons

S. Amadio, N. D'Ambrosi, F. Cavaliere, B. Murra, G. Sancesario, G. Bernardi, G. Burnstock, C. Volonté

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study we investigate the presence, modulation and biological function of P2 receptors and extracellular ATP in cultured cerebellar granule neurons. As we demonstrate by RT-PCR and western blotting, both P2X and P2Y receptor subtypes are expressed and furthermore regulated as a function of neuronal maturation. In early primary cultures, mRNA for most of the P2 receptor subtypes, except P2X6, are found, while in older cultures only P2X3, P2Y1 and P2Y6 mRNA persist. In contrast, P2 receptor proteins are more prominent in mature neurons, with the exception of P2Y1. We also report that extracellular ATP acts as a cell death mediator for fully differentiated and mature granule neurons, for dissociated striatal primary cells and hippocampal organotypic cultures, inducing both apoptotic and necrotic features of degeneration. ATP causes cell death with EC50 in the 20-50 μM range within few minutes of exposure and with a time lapse of at most two hours. Additional agonists for P2 receptors induce toxic effects, whereas selected antagonists are protective. Cellular swelling, lactic dehydrogenase release and nuclei fragmentation are among the features of ATP-evoked cell death, which also include direct P2 receptor modulation. Comparably to P2 receptor antagonists previously shown preventing glutamate-toxicity, here we report that competitive and non-competitive NMDA receptor antagonists inhibit the detrimental consequences of extracellular ATP. Due to the massive extracellular release of purine nucleotides and nucleosides often occurring during a toxic insult, our data indicate that extracellular ATP can now be included among the potential causes of CNS neurodegenerative events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-501
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Apoptosis
  • Extracellular ATP
  • Granule neurons
  • Hippocampal organotypic cultures
  • Necrosis
  • P2 receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Drug Discovery
  • Pharmacology


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