Detecting adenosine triphosphate in the pericellular space

Simonetta Falzoni, Giovanna Donvito, Francesco Di Virgilio


Release of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) into the extracellular space occurs in response to a multiplicity of physiological and pathological stimuli in virtually all cells and tissues. A role for extracellular ATP has been identified in processes as different as neurotransmission, endocrine and exocrine secretion, smooth muscle contraction, bone metabolism, cell proliferation, immunity and inflammation. However, ATP measurement in the extracellular space has proved a daunting task until recently. To tackle this challenge, some years ago, we designed and engineered a novel luciferase probe targeted to and expressed on the outer aspect of the plasma membrane. This novel probe was constructed by appending to firefly luciferase the N-terminal leader sequence and the C-terminal glycophosphatidylinositol anchor of the folate receptor. This chimeric protein, named plasma membrane luciferase, is targeted and localized to the outer side of the plasma membrane. With this probe, we have generated stably transfected HEK293 cell clones that act as an in vitro and in vivo sensor of the extracellular ATP concentration in several disease conditions, such as experimentally induced tumours and inflammation.


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© 2013 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

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