Chronic pain is a debilitating condition that often occurs following peripheral tissue inflammation and nerve injury. This pain, especially neuropathic pain, is a significant clinical problem because of the ineffectiveness of clinically available drugs. Since Burnstock proposed new roles of nucleotides as neurotransmitters, the roles of extracellular ATP and P2 receptors (P2Rs) in pain signaling have been extensively studied, and ATP-P2R signaling has subsequently received much attention as it can provide clues toward elucidating the mechanisms underlying chronic pain and serve as a potential therapeutic target. This review summarizes the literature regarding the role of ATP signaling via P2X3Rs (as well as P2X2/3Rs) in primary afferent neurons and via P2X4Rs and P2X7Rs in spinal cord microglia in chronic pain, and discusses their respective therapeutic potentials.
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