P2 receptor web: Complexity and fine-tuning

Cinzia Volonté, Susanna Amadio, Nadia D'Ambrosi, Monica Colpi, Geoffrey Burnstock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present review offers a new perspective on a family of receptors, termed P2 receptors, specific for nucleoside tri- and diphosphates of purines/pyrimidines. We emphasize here that while decoding the inputs of various related extracellular ligands, P2 receptors are a clear example of increasing biological complexity. They are represented by 7 ionotropic P2X and 8 metabotropic P2Y receptors; they have very heterogeneous ligands and binding characteristics, molecular properties, transduction mechanisms, cellular localization and protein-protein interactions. While the reason for this sophistication is unknown, a few compelling issues emerge while looking at such a rich variety. We ask, for instance, why so many different receptor subtypes are necessary for triggering biological properties and functions, and if these receptors are more than the sum of their single entities. A first possibility is that newly synthesized P2 proteins are casually located on the cell surface (stochastic hypothesis). Alternatively, distinct subunits are engaged on different cell phenotypes by genetic control (genetic determinism) and/or selective recruitment under physiopathological conditions and epigenetic stimuli (epigenetic determinism). Nevertheless, an appropriate way to both dissect the vast biological scenario and molecular complexity among P2 receptors and to integrate and upgrade their assortment is to regard them as a "combinatorial receptor web", that is, a dynamic architecture of P2 proteins demonstrating economic efficiency and involving a process of "fine-tuning", a mechanism which endorses the dynamic nature of all biological reactions. In the present analysis, we stimulate a scientific query about what contributes to such a vast P2 receptor sophistication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-280
Number of pages17
JournalPharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


  • Combinatorial calculation
  • Ionotropic P2X receptor
  • Metabotropic P2Y receptor
  • Receptor cross talk
  • Receptor web

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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