Two closely related cell lines were characterized in their responses to extracellular ATP (ATPo): the fibroblast cell line L929 and a TNF-resistant variant L929/R. Both lines showed ATPo-activated increases in intracellular Ca2+, inward current, and sustained depolarization of the plasma membrane, cell responses compatible with activation of purinergic receptors of the P2y, P2x, or P2z subtype; however, only the L929/R variant was susceptible to ATPo-dependent early permeabilization of the plasma membrane to hydrophilic solutes of M(r) below 900, a response uniquely caused by the activation of P2z receptors. Both cell types were susceptible to the cytotoxic effect of ATPo, but killing of the L929/R variant required much shorter incubations in the presence of this nucleotide. Morphologic examination of ATPo-challenged L929 and L929/R cells showed that cell death occurred by two alternative mechanisms: colloido-osmotic lysis or apoptosis. Occurrence of apoptosis was confirmed by agarose gel analysis of cellular DNA. Although ATPo caused a fast mobilization of intracellular Ca2+, neither colloido-osmotic lysis nor apoptosis were Ca2+ dependent. Our results show that the L929/R variant, but not the L929 parental fibroblast cell line, expresses functional purinergic receptors of the P2z subtype. The presence of P2z receptors confers to L929/R cells enhanced susceptibility to ATPo-mediated cytotoxicity.
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