In his highly cited Biochemical Journal review, ‘Extracellular ATP: effects, sources and fate’, (Volume 233, pages 309–319) John Gordon summarized the state of knowledge in 1986 surrounding the extracellular signalling functions of ATP. At that time, the status of ATP as a signalling agent was overwhelmed by the central position of ATP in energy metabolism and, as Dr Gordon wryly noted, many regarded such a notion as “verging on the heretical”. His review covered what was then known of ATP receptors, and ATP signalling in a diverse range of physiological processes such as platelet aggregation, vascular tone, peripheral and central neurotransmission, cardiac function and smooth muscle contraction. Finally, he considered the breakdown of ATP in the extracellular space. Dr Gordon used his review to “indulge in some modest speculation about the role of extracellular ATP in biology and pathology”. He emphasized the importance of understanding the sources of ATP release, as well as the stimuli that evoke release and the mechanisms by which ATP is released. These important issues remain as pertinent today as they were in 1986 and the drive to answer these questions has led to many fundamental advances

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