Research ArticleNeuroscience

Nonsynaptic Communication Through ATP Release from Volume-Activated Anion Channels in Axons

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Science Signaling  05 Oct 2010:
Vol. 3, Issue 142, pp. ra73
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2001128

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A Swell Route to Neuronal Communication

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which can be released at synapses to act as a neurotransmitter, can also be released through mechanically activated anion channels in nonexcitable cells as part of a mechanism to restore volume under hypotonic conditions. Here, Fields and Ni show that minute increases in axon volume secondary to neuronal activity are associated with release of ATP from dorsal root ganglion (DRG) axons. This activity-dependent release of ATP was inhibited by preventing axonal swelling with hypertonic solutions, as well as by pharmacological blockade of various stretch-activated chloride channels, but not by agents that block the release of synaptic vesicles. Moreover, conditions that blocked ATP release also blocked signals from DRG neurons to cocultured astrocytes. The authors thus propose that nonvesicular release of signaling molecules through stretch-activated channels may represent a mechanism for activity-dependent communication between neurons and nearby cells.

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