ATP is known to depolarize sensory neurons, and may play a role in nociceptor activation when released from damaged tissue1-10. Here we report the molecular cloning and characterization of a new member of the P2X receptor family3,11,12, P2X3, expressed by these cells. The channel transcript was present in a subset of rat dorsal-root-ganglion sensory neurons, some of which express nociceptor-associated markers; it was absent in other tissues that were tested, including sympathetic, enteric and central nervous system neurons. Moreover, when expressed in Xenopus oocytes, the channel showed an ATP-dependent cation flux. P2X3 is the only ligand-gated channel known to be expressed exclusively by a subset of sensory neurons. The remarkable selectivity of expression of the channel coupled with its sensory neuron-like pharmacology suggests that this channel may transduce ATP-evoked nociceptor activation.
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