That was then, this is now: the development of our knowledge and understanding of P2 receptor subtypes

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P2 receptors are present in virtually all tissues and cell types in the human body, and they mediate the physiological and pharmacological actions of extracellular purine and pyrimidine nucleotides. They were first characterised and named by Geoff Burnstock in 1978, then subdivided into P 2X and P 2Y purinoceptors in 1985 on the basis of pharmacological criteria in functional studies on native receptors. Molecular cloning of receptors in the 1990s revealed P2X receptors to comprise seven different subunits that interact to produce functional homo- and heterotrimeric ligand-gated cation channels. A family of eight P2Y G protein–coupled receptors were also cloned, which can form homo- and heterodimers. Deep insight into the molecular mechanisms of agonist and antagonist action has been provided by more recent determination of the tertiary and quaternary structures of several P2X and P2Y receptor subtypes. Agonists and antagonists that are highly selective for individual subtypes are now available and some are in clinical use. This has all come about because of the intelligence, insight and drive of the force of nature that was Geoff Burnstock.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-23
Number of pages15
JournalPurinergic Signalling
Early online date1 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2021


  • P2 receptors
  • P2X receptors
  • P2Y receptors
  • ligand-gated cation channel
  • G protein-coupled receptor
  • heterodimer


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