Activation of the P2X7 receptor induces migration of glial cells by inducing cathepsin B degradation of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 1


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Niamh Murphy, Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland. E-mail:


The P2X7 receptor is an ion-gated channel, which is activated by high extracellular concentrations of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Activation of P2X7 receptors has been shown to induce neuroinflammatory changes associated with several neurological conditions. The matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a family of endopeptidases that have several functions including degradation of the extracellular matrix, cell migration and modulation of bioactive molecules. The actions of MMPs are prevented by a family of protease inhibitors called tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs). In this study, we show that ATP-treated glial cultures from neonatal C57BL/6 mice release and increase MMP-9 activity, which is coupled with a decrease in release of TIMP-1 and an increase in activated cathepsin B within the extracellular space. This process occurs independently of NLRP3-inflammasome formation. Treatment with a P2X7 receptor antagonist prevents ATP-induced MMP-9 activity, inhibition of active cathepsin B release and allows for TIMP-1 to be released from the cell. We have shown that cathepsin B degrades TIMP-1, and inhibition of cathepsin B allows for release of TIMP-1 and inhibits MMP-9 activity. We also present data that indicate that ATP or cell damage induces glial cell migration, which is inhibited by P2X7 antagonism, depletion of MMP-9 or inhibition of cathepsin B.