The effects of extracellular ATP on plasma membrane permeability in mouse lymphocytes were studied with plasma membrane depolarization, uptake of ethidium bromide, and release of lactate dehydrogenase as indicators of increased permeability. Extracellular ATP induced sustained depolarization of plasma membrane potential as well as uptake of low m.w. fluorescent markers in mouse lymphocytes derived from thymus and spleen, and in two lymphoma lines YAC-1 and MBL-2. The fully ionized form ATP4- rather than MgATP2- mediated the increased permeability of the plasma membrane. Although prolonged exposure to exogenous ATP ultimately lysed the lymphocytes, two CTL populations (CHM-14 clone and CTLL-2 line) and IL-2-treated spleen lymphocytes with unrestricted killing activity were highly resistant to the permeabilizing action of extracellular ATP at all concentrations tested. In addition, CTL derived from primary immune peritoneal exudate and enriched by in vitro culture for 5 days in the presence of specific stimulator cells were also resistant to this permeabilizing effect. These findings show that exogenous ATP has a lytic effect on mouse lymphocytes but not on CTL, and suggest a role for ATP in cell-mediated cytotoxicity.
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