I have had the pleasure and privilege of being involved in one facet of Geoffrey Burnstock's early career. I have reviewed this work together with more recent developments in the area. In 1968, the presence of non- adrenergic, non-cholinergic inhibitory nerves had been established but the identity of their neurotransmitter was unknown. Stimulation of these nerves in recycled perfused toad and guinea-pig stomachs caused release of adenosine and inosine. When ATP was added to recycled perfusates, it was broken down to adenosine and inosine. These findings together with information that AMP was released from stimulated, isolated turkey Auerbach's plexus which was known to contain the nerves, suggested that ATP could be the neurotransmitter. This was supported by observations that ATP elicited responses similar to that of nerve stimulation in a variety of tissues. Developments from the early purinergic nerve hypothesis are considered including independence of extracellular actions of ATP from its intracellular actions, identification and cloning of purinoceptors and cotransmission of ATP with other substances. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.
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