Microglial cells are known to express purinergic receptors for extracellular ATP of both the P2Y and P2X subtypes. Functional studies have shown that both primary mouse microglial cells and the N9 and N13 microglial cell lines express the pore-forming P2Z/P2X7 receptor. Here we identify the presence of this receptor in N9 and N13 cells with a specific polyclonal Ab and show that microglial cells expressing the P2Z/P2X7 receptor are exquisitively sensitive to ATP-mediated cytotoxicity while clones selected for the lack of this receptor are resistant. Transfection of HEK293 cells with P2X7 (but not P2X2) receptor cDNA confers susceptibility to ATP-mediated cytotoxicity. Morphological and biochemical analysis suggests that ATP-dependent cell death in microglial cells occurs by apoptosis. Finally, microglial cells release ATP via a non-lytic mechanism when activated by bacterial endotoxin, thus suggesting the operation of a purinergic autocrine/paracrine loop.
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