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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Purinergic responses of calcium-dependent signaling pathways in cultured adult human astrocytes

Sadayuki Hashioka14*, Yun Fan Wang2, Jonathan P Little3, Hyun B Choi2, Andis Klegeris3, Patrick L McGeer1 and James G McLarnon2*

Author Affiliations

1 Kinsmen Laboratory of Neurological Research, Department of Psychiatry, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC Canada

2 Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, The University of British Columbia, 2176 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada

3 Department of Biology, I.K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, The University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus, Kelowna, BC Canada

4 Present affiliation; Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Shimane University, 89-1 Enya-cho, Izumo, Shimane 693-8501, Japan

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BMC Neuroscience 2014, 15:18  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-15-18

Published: 22 January 2014



The properties of Ca2+ signaling mediated by purinergic receptors are intrinsically linked with functional activity of astrocytes. At present little is known concerning Ca2+-dependent purinergic responses in adult human astrocytes. This work has examined effects of purinergic stimulation to alter levels of intracellular Ca2+ in adult human astrocytes. Ca2+-sensitive spectrofluorometry was carried out to determine mobilization of intracellular Ca2+ following adenosine triphosphate (ATP) or 3′-O-(4-benzoyl)benzoyl-ATP (Bz-ATP) stimulation of adult human astrocytes. In some experiments pharmacological modulation of Ca2+ pathways was applied to help elucidate mechanisms of Ca2+ signaling. RT-PCR was also performed to confirm human astrocyte expression of specific purinoceptors which were indicated from imaging studies.


The endogenous P2 receptor agonist ATP (at 100 μM or 1 mM) applied in physiological saline solution (PSS) evoked a rapid increase of [Ca2+]i to a peak amplitude with the decay phase of response exhibiting two components. The two phases of decay consisted of an initial rapid component which was followed by a secondary slower component. In the presence of Ca2+-free solution, the secondary phase of decay was absent indicating this prolonged component was due to influx of Ca2+. This prolonged phase of decay was also attenuated with the store-operated channel (SOC) inhibitor gadolinium (at 2 μM) added to standard PSS, suggesting this component was mediated by SOC activation. These results are consistent with ATP activation of P2Y receptor (P2YR) in adult human astrocytes leading to respective rapid [Ca2+]i mobilization from intracellular stores followed by Ca2+ entry through SOC. An agonist for P2X7 receptor (P2X7R), BzATP induced a very different response compared with ATP whereby BzATP (at 300 μM) elicited a slowly rising increase in [Ca2+]i to a plateau level which was sustained in duration. The BzATP-induced increase in [Ca2+]i was not enhanced with lipopolysaccharide pre-treatment of cells as previously found for P2X7R mediated response in human microglia. RT-PCR analysis showed that adult human astrocytes in vitro constitutively express mRNA for P2Y1R, P2Y2R and P2X7R.


These results suggest that activation of metabotropic P2YR (P2Y1R and/or P2Y2R) and ionotropic P2X7R could mediate purinergic responses in adult human astrocytes.

Adult human astrocytes; P2 receptors; Intracellular calcium signaling; ATP; 3′-O-(4-benzoyl)benzoyl-ATP