Distinct localization of P2X receptors at excitatory postsynaptic specializations

Maria E. Rubio, Florentina Soto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

220 Scopus citations


ATP mediates fast excitatory synaptic transmission in some regions of the central nervous system through activation of P2X receptors. Nonetheless, the functional significance of ATP-mediated neurotransmission is not yet understood. Using postembedding immunocytochemistry, we describe the distribution of P2X2, P2X4 and P2X6 subunits in cerebellum and in the CA1 region of the hippocampus. Dendritic spines of cerebellar Purkinje cells showed immunogold labeling for all three subunits when apposed to parallel fiber (PF) terminals. In contrast, no immunogold labeling was observed on dendritic spines or cell bodies receiving inputs from climbing fibers and basket cells, respectively. In CA1 pyramidal cells, postsynaptic membranes apposed to terminals of Schaffer collaterals were immunogold-labeled for P2X2, P2X4, and P2X6 subunits. Immunolabeling was also observed perisynaptically and intracellularly in relation to membranes of the endoplasmic reticulum. The analysis of the tangential distribution of gold particles showed that they were preferentially located at the peripheral portion of the postsynaptic specialization of both parallel fiber and Schaffer collateral synapses. By double immunogold labeling using antibodies for P2X receptor subunits and GluR2/3 subunits of the AMPA glutamate receptors, we show that synapses expressing P2X receptors are also glutamatergic. The present study shows for the first time qualitatively and quantitatively the precise localization of P2X receptors in brain. Moreover, our data indicate that P2X receptors may play a significant role at glutamatergic synapses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)641-653
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2001


  • ATP
  • Cerebellum
  • Excitatory synapses
  • Hippocampus
  • Ligand-gated ion channels
  • P2X receptors
  • Postembedding immunocytochemistry


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