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Purinergic transmission and transglial signaling between neuron somata in the dorsal root ganglion


Correspondence: Elise F. Stanley, as above.



Most dorsal root ganglion neuronal somata (NS) are isolated from their neighbours by a satellite glial cell (SGC) sheath. However, some NS are associated in pairs, separated solely by the membrane septum of a common SGC to form a neuron–glial cell–neuron (NGlN) trimer. We reported that stimulation of one NS evokes a delayed, noisy and long-duration inward current in both itself and its passive partner that was blocked by suramin, a general purinergic antagonist. Here we test the hypothesis that NGlN transmission involves purinergic activation of the SGC. Stimulation of the NS triggered a sustained current noise in the SGC. Block of transmission through the NGlN by reactive blue 2 or thapsigargin, a Ca2+ store-depletion agent, implicated a Ca2+ store discharge-linked P2Y receptor. P2Y2 was identified by simulation of the NGlN-like transmission by puffing UTP onto the SGC and by immunocytochemical localization to the SGC membrane septum. Block of the UTP effect by BAPTA, an intracellular Ca2+ scavenger, supported the involvement of SGC Ca2+ stores in the signaling pathway. We infer that transmission through the NGlN trimer involves secretion of ATP from the NS and triggering of SGC Ca2+ store discharge via P2Y2 receptors. Presumably, cytoplasmic Ca2+ elevation leads to the release of an as-yet unidentified second transmitter from the glial cell to complete transmission. Thus, the two NS of the NGlN trimer communicate via a ‘sandwich synapse’ transglial pathway, a novel signaling mechanism that may contribute to information transfer in other regions of the nervous system.

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