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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Extracellular ATP activates NFAT-dependent gene expression in neuronal PC12 cells via P2X receptors

Prabin Prasai, Georgios C Stefos and Walter Becker*

Author affiliations

Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Medical Faculty of the RWTH Aachen University, Wendlingweg 2, 52074 Aachen, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12:90  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-90

Published: 23 September 2011

Abstract

Background

Treatment of neuronal PC12 cells with ATP induces depolarisation and increases intracellular calcium levels via purinergic receptors. In many cell types, sustained elevation of intracellular calcium levels cause changes in gene expression via activation of the transcription factor NFAT (nuclear factor of activated T cells). We have therefore characterised the signalling pathway by which ATP regulates NFAT-dependent gene expression in PC12 cells.

Results

The activation of NFAT transcriptional activity by extracellular ATP was characterised with the help of reporter gene assays. Treatment of PC12 cells with ATP elicited a dose-dependent increase in luciferase activity (EC50 = 78 μM). UTP, 4-benzoylbenzoyl ATP and α,β-methylene ATP did not mimic the effect of ATP, which was abolished by treatment with the P2X receptor antagonist pyridoxal-phosphate-6-azophenyl-2',4'-disulfonate (PPADS). This pharmacological characterisation provides evidence for a critical role of ionotropic P2X receptors. Blockade of L-type voltage-dependent calcium channels by nifedipine reduced the response of NFAT to ATP, indicating that a depolarisation-mediated calcium influx was required for maximal NFAT activation. Inhibition of store-operated calcium entry by the pyrazole derivative BTP2 also diminished ATP-dependent NFAT activation. Furthermore, ATP-induced NFAT activation was associated with the activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinases ERK1/2. Finally, treatment with ATP increased the levels of the NFAT target transcripts, RCAN1-4 (regulator of calcineurin) and BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor).

Conclusion

The present data show that ATP induces NFAT-dependent changes in gene expression in PC12 cells by acting on P2X receptors. Maximal NFAT activation depends on both depolarisation-induced calcium influx and store-operated calcium entry and requires the activity of the protein phosphatase calcineurin and the mitogen-activated protein kinase cascade.