Neuronal somatic ATP release triggers neuron-satellite glial cell communication in dorsal root ganglia

X. Zhang, Y. Chen, C. Wang, L. Y.M. Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

233 Scopus citations


It has been generally assumed that the cell body (soma) of a neuron, which contains the nucleus, is mainly responsible for synthesis of macromolecules and has a limited role in cell-to-cell communication. Using sniffer patch recordings, we show here that electrical stimulation of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons elicits robust vesicular ATP release from their somata. The rate of release events increases with the frequency of nerve stimulation; external Ca2+ entry is required for the release. FM1-43 photoconversion analysis further reveals that small clear vesicles participate in exocytosis. In addition, the released ATP activates P2X7 receptors in satellite cells that enwrap each DRG neuron and triggers the communication between neuronal somata and glial cells. Blocking L-type Ca2+ channels completely eliminates the neuron-glia communication. We further show that activation of P2X7 receptors can lead to the release of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα) from satellite cells. TNFα in turn potentiates the P2X3 receptor-mediated responses and increases the excitability of DRG neurons. This study provides strong evidence that somata of DRG neurons actively release transmitters and play a crucial role in bidirectional communication between neurons and surrounding satellite glial cells. These results also suggest that, contrary to the conventional view, neuronal somata have a significant role in cell-cell signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9864-9869
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 5 2007


  • Neuron-glia communication
  • P2X3
  • P2X7
  • Somatic release
  • Tumor necrosis factor α

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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