Researchers announce new advance in body 'chemical switch' study

Posted by pt91 at Mar 05, 2012 08:00 PM |
‘We have the first realistic insight into how a switch linked to blood-clotting, and therefore connected to strokes and heart-attacks, is operated’ – lead researcher Richard Evans
Researchers announce new advance in body 'chemical switch' study

Model of the human P2X1 receptor for ATP, the three subunits that make up the functional receptor are shown in red, white and blue.

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 5 March 2012

Image of Model of the human P2X1 receptor available from

Scientists investigating a ‘biochemical switch’ linked to strokes and heart disease claim to have made an advance in understanding how it is ‘turned on’.

The breakthrough is announced today in the prestigious science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The work was led by a team at the University of Leicester, working in collaboration with Cardiff University, to investigate the ‘biochemical switch’ identified as  the P2X1 receptor. It was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the British Heart Foundation.

Lead researcher Professor Richard Evans, of the University of Leicester Department of Cell Physiology & Pharmacology, said: “P2X1 receptors are protein molecules expressed on blood platelets which are cells involved in blood clotting. Drugs that block these receptors have the potential to reduce “dangerous” blood clotting that leads to strokes and heart attacks. 

“Our research has looked at how the P2X1 receptor is “turned on”.  By biochemical studies and purifying the P2X1 receptor and using an electron microscope we have ‘visualised’ the receptor and detected changes in its shape when it is activated. 

“The P2X1 receptor is made of three identical parts and we have shown that activation leads to these twisting against each-other.  We found that if we chemically locked the receptor to stop this twisting, then the P2X1 receptor could not be fully activated. 

“This is important as it gives the first realistic insight into how these novel receptors are turned on.

“This work will help to develop drugs that can stop the P2X1 receptor being “turned on” and would be useful to prevent stroke and heart attack.”

The research project was undertaken at the University of Leicester  in the Department of Cell Physiology & Pharmacology and with Ralf Schmid in the University of Leicester Department of Biochemistry, along with Mark Young at Cardiff University.


The contact for this study is Dr Richard Evans, University of Leicester, on Tel:  0116 229 7057      Email:

The full list of researchers is:

University of Leicester:  Jonathan A. Roberts, Rebecca C. Allsopp, Sam El Ajouz, Catherine Vial, Ralf Schmid, Richard J. Evans

Cardiff University: Mark T. Young

Title of paper: Agonist binding evokes extensive conformational changes in the extracellular domain of the ATP-gated human P2X1 receptor ion channel

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust's breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is the nation’s heart charity, dedicated to saving lives through pioneering research, patient care, campaigning for change and by providing vital information. But we urgently need help. We rely on donations of time and money to continue our life-saving work. Because together we can beat heart disease.

Share this page: