The purine nucleotide ATP mediates several distinct forms of sensory transduction in both the peripheral and central nervous systems. These processes share common mechanisms that involve the release of ATP to activate ionotropic P2X and/or metabotropic P2Y receptors. Extracellular ATP signalling plays an important role in ventilatory control, mediating both peripheral and central chemosensory transduction to changes in arterial levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. New data also suggest that extracellular ATP may play an important role in mediating certain neurophysiological responses to systemic inflammation. Here, we propose the novel concept that both peripheral and central neurophysiological effects of ATP may contribute to alterations in ventilatory control during inflammatory pathophysiological states.

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