• Adenosine triphosphate;
  • P2 receptors;
  • P2 antagonists;
  • Human mesenchymal stem cells;
  • Patch clamp;
  • Cell proliferation


Bone marrow-derived human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) have the potential to differentiate into several cell lines. Extracellular adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) acts as a potent signaling molecule mediating cell-to-cell communication. Particular interest has been focused in recent years on the role of ATP in stem cell proliferation and differentiation. In the present work, we demonstrate that hMSCs at early stages of culture (P0–P5) spontaneously release ATP, which decreases cell proliferation. Increased hMSC proliferation is induced by the unselective P2 antagonist pyridoxalphosphate-6-azophenyl-2′,4′-disulfonate (PPADS) and by the selective P2Y1 antagonist 2′-deoxy-N6-methyladenosine3′,5′-bisphosphate (MRS 2179). A functional role of extracellular ATP in modulating ionic conductances with the whole-cell and/or perforated patch-clamp techniques was also investigated. Exogenous ATP increased both the voltage-sensitive outward and inward currents in 47% of cells, whereas, in 31% of cells, only an increase in inward currents was found. Cells responding in this dual manner to ATP presented different resting membrane potentials. Both ATP-induced effects had varying sensitivity to the P2 antagonists PPADS and MRS 2179. Outward ATP-sensitive currents are carried by potassium ions, since they are blocked by cesium replacement and are Ca2+-dependent because they are eliminated in the presence of 1,2-bis(2-aminophenoxy)ethane-N,N,N′,N′-tetraacetic acid. On the basis of different electrophysiological and pharmacological characteristics, we conclude that outward ATP-sensitive currents are due to Ca2+-dependent K+-channel activation following stimulation of P2Y receptors, whereas inward ATP-sensitive currents are mediated by P2X receptor activation. In summary, ATP released in early life stages of hMSCs modulates their proliferation rate and likely acts as one of the early factors determining their cell fate.

Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.