Vesicular storage of ATP is one of the processes initiating purinergic chemical transmission. Although an active transport mechanism was postulated to be involved in the processes, a transporter(s) responsible for the vesicular storage of ATP remained unidentified for some time. In 2008, SLC17A9, the last identified member of the solute carrier 17 type I inorganic phosphate transporter family, was found to encode the vesicular nucleotide transporter (VNUT) that is responsible for the vesicular storage of ATP. VNUT transports various nucleotides in a membrane potential-dependent fashion and is expressed in the various ATP-secreting cells. Mice with knockout of the VNUT gene lose vesicular storage and release of ATP from neurons and neuroendocrine cells, resulting in blockage of the initiation of purinergic chemical transmission. Thus, VNUT plays an essential role in the vesicular storage and release of ATP. The VNUT knockout mice exhibit resistance for neuropathic pain and a therapeutic effect against diabetes by way of increased insulin sensitivity. Thus, VNUT inhibitors and suppression of VNUT gene expression may be used for therapeutic purposes through suppression of purinergic chemical transmission. This review summarizes the studies to date on VNUT and discusses what we have learned about the relevance of vesicular ATP release as a potential drug target.
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