We have observed a striking difference in the response to extracellular ATP in lymphoblastoid cell lines established from Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients and normal subjects. Duchenne muscular dystrophy cells stimulated by extracellular ATP underwent a large increase in the cytoplasmic Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) and plasma membrane depolarization, while normal cell lines were little or not at all responsive. These changes in intracellular ion homeostasis were due to activation of an ATP-gated membrane channel permeable to Na+ and Ca2+, with little or no contribution of Ca2+ release from intracellular stores. The channel was selectively activated by ATP, since other purine/pyrimidine nucleotides were ineffective, and it was inhibited by pretreatment with oxidized ATP, a compound previously reported to irreversibly inhibit P2 purinergic receptors. In the presence of extracellular ATP, lymphoblastoid cells established from Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients, but not from healthy controls, underwent rounding and swelling and eventually lysed. The results of this study suggest that lymphoblastoid cells isolated from Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients are eminently sensitive to stimulation by extracellular ATP.
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