Division of Pharmacology, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands,
Chronic Respiratory Disease Research Center, National Research Institute of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (NRITLD), Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
Cell and Molecular Biology Group, Airways Disease Section, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, UK
Extracellular ATP is a signaling molecule which plays an important role in alerting the immune system in case of any tissue damage. Recent studies show that binding of ATP to the ionotropic P2X7 receptor of inflammatory cells (macrophages and monocytes) will induce caspase 1 activation. Stimulation of caspase 1 activity results in maturation and release of IL-1 in the inflammasome in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients. COPD is an inflammatory disease characterized by emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis and is mostly associated with cigarette smoking. It is one of the leading causes of death in humans and there is currently no medication to stop the progression of disease. A deeper understanding of the mechanism by which the P2X7 receptor triggers IL-1 maturation and release, may open new opportunities for the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as COPD.