• ATP;
  • enteric nervous system;
  • inhibitory neurotransmission;
  • purinergic neurotransmission;
  • P2X;
  • P2Y
  • Conflicting views exist on whether ATP is a neurotransmitter in the enteric nervous system. We investigated the role of ATP in enteric transmission in circular muscle strips of the mouse jejunum.

  • On PGF2α-precontracted muscle strips and in the presence of atropine and guanethidine, electrical field stimulation (EFS, 1–8 Hz) of nonadrenergic noncholinergic (NANC) nerves induced transient relaxations that were abolished by the nerve-conductance blocker tetrodotoxin. The NO synthase blocker L-nitroarginine (L-NOARG) partially inhibited the NANC relaxations to EFS, but fast-twitch relaxations to EFS were still observed in the presence of L-NOARG.

  • In the presence of L-NOARG, ATP, the P2X receptor agonist αβMeATP and the P2Y receptor agonist ADPβS relaxed jejunal muscle strips. Tetrodotoxin did not affect the relaxation to ATP and ADPβS, but inhibited that to αβMeATP.

  • The L-NOARG-resistant NANC relaxations to EFS were almost abolished by apamin, a blocker of small-conductance Ca2+ activated K+ channels, and by suramin and PPADS, blockers of P2 purinoceptors. Relaxations to ATP were almost abolished by apamin and suramin but not affected by PPADS.

  • Desensitisation of αβMeATP-sensitive P2X receptors, the P2X receptor blocker Evans blue and the P2X1,2,3 receptor blocker NF 279 inhibited the L-NOARG-resistant NANC relaxations to EFS and that to αβMeATP without affecting the relaxation to ADPβS. Brilliant blue G, a P2X2,5,7 receptor blocker, did not affect the relaxations to EFS.

  • Desensitisation of P2Y receptors and MRS 2179, a P2Y1 receptor blocker, virtually abolished the L-NOARG-resistant NANC relaxations to EFS and the relaxation to ADPβS without affecting the relaxation to αβMeATP.

  • Dipyridamole, an adenosine uptake inhibitor, or theophylline and 8-phenyltheophylline, blockers of P1 and A1 purinoceptors, respectively, did not affect the purinergic NANC relaxations to EFS.

  • Our results suggest that ATP or a related purine acts as an inhibitory NANC neurotransmitter in the mouse jejunum, activating P2 but not P1 purinoceptors. Relaxations to the purinergic NANC neurotransmitter mainly involve P2Y receptors of the P2Y1 subtype that are located postjunctionally. Purinergic NANC neurotransmission also involves P2X receptors, most likely of the P2X1 and P2X3 subtype, located pre- and/or postjunctionally.

British Journal of Pharmacology (2003) 140, 1108–1116. doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0705536