The endocrine system is the system of ductless glands and single cells that synthesize hormones and release them directly into the bloodstream. Regulation of endocrine system is very complex and ATP and its degradable products ADP and adenosine contribute to its regulation acting as extracellular messengers for purinergic receptors. These include P2X receptors, a family of ligand-gated ion channels whose expression and roles in endocrine tissues are reviewed here. There are seven mammalian purinergic receptor subunits, denoted P2X1 through P2X7, and the majority of these subunits are also expressed in secretory and non-secretory cells of endocrine system. Functional channels have been identified in the neuroendocrine hypothalamus, the posterior and anterior pituitary, the thyroid gland, the adrenals, the endocrine pancreas, the gonads, and the placenta. Native channels are capable of promoting calcium influx through its pore in both excitable and non-excitable cells, as well as of increasing electrical activity in excitable cells by membrane depolarization. This leads to generation of calcium transients and stimulation of hormone release. The pattern of expression and action of P2XRs in endocrine system suggest that locally produced ATP amplifies and synchronizes the secretory responses of individual cells.WIREs Membr Transp Signal 2013, 2:173–180. doi: 10.1002/wmts.89
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