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It has been reported that ATP inhibits or stimulates lymphoid cell proliferation depending on the cellular subset analyzed. In this study, we show that ATP exerts strikingly opposite effects on anti-CD3/CD28-activated and regulatory CD4(+) T cells (T(regs)), based on nucleotide concentration. We demonstrate that physiological concentrations of extracellular ATP (1-50 nM) do not affect activated CD4(+) T cells and T(regs). Conversely, higher ATP concentrations have a bimodal effect on activated CD4(+) T cells. Whereas 250 nM ATP stimulates proliferation, cytokine release, expression of adhesion molecules, and adhesion, 1 mM ATP induces apoptosis and inhibits activated CD4(+) T cell functions. The expression analysis and pharmacological profile of purinergic P2 receptors for extracellular nucleotides suggest that activated CD4(+) T cells are induced to apoptosis via the upregulation and engagement of P2X7R and P2X4R. On the contrary, 1 mM ATP enhances proliferation, adhesion, migration, via P2Y2R activation, and immunosuppressive ability of T(regs). Similar results were obtained when activated CD4(+) T cells and T(regs) were exposed to ATP released by necrotized leukemic cells. Taken together, our results show that different concentrations of extracellular ATP modulate CD4(+) T cells according to their activated/regulatory status. Because extracellular ATP concentration highly increases in fast-growing tumors or hyperinflamed tissues, the manipulation of purinergic signaling might represent a new therapeutic target to shift the balance between activated CD4(+) T cells and T(regs).


Sara Trabanelli, Darina Ocadlíková, Sara Gulinelli, Antonio Curti, Valentina Salvestrini, Rodolfo de Paula Vieira, Marco Idzko, Francesco Di Virgilio, Davide Ferrari, Roberto M Lemoli. Extracellular ATP exerts opposite effects on activated and regulatory CD4+ T cells via purinergic P2 receptor activation. Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950). 2012 Aug 1;189(3):1303-10

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PMID: 22753942

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