Temperature-dependent release of ATP from human erythrocytes: mechanism for the control of local tissue perfusion

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Human limb muscle and skin blood flow increases significantly with elevations in temperature, possibly through physiological processes that involve temperature-sensitive regulatory mechanisms. Here we tested the hypothesis that the release of the vasodilator ATP from human erythrocytes is sensitive to physiological increases in temperature both in vitro and in vivo, and examined potential channel/transporters involved. To investigate the source of ATP release, whole blood, red blood cells (RBCs), plasma and serum were heated in vitro to 33, 36, 39 and 42°C. In vitro heating augmented plasma or ‘bathing solution’ ATP in whole blood and RBC samples, but not in either isolated plasma or serum samples. Heat-induced ATP release was blocked by niflumic acid and glibenclamide, but was not affected by inhibitors of nucleoside transport or anion exchange. Heating blood to 42°C enhanced (P < 0.05) membrane protein abundance of cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) in RBCs. In a parallel in vivo study in humans exposed to whole-body heating at rest and during exercise, increases in muscle temperature from 35 to 40°C correlated strongly with elevations in arterial plasma ATP (r2 = 0.91; P = 0.0001), but not with femoral venous plasma ATP (r2 = 0.61; P = 0.14). In vitro, however, the increase in ATP release from RBCs was similar in arterial and venous samples heated to 39°C. Our findings demonstrate that erythrocyte ATP release is sensitive to physiological increases in temperature, possibly via activation of CFTR-like channels, and suggest that temperature-dependent release of ATP from erythrocytes might be an important mechanism regulating human limb muscle and skin perfusion in conditions that alter blood and tissue temperature.

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