Extracellular histone proteins are elevated in circulation after injury or activation of the innate immune response. In resistance-size arteries, extracellular histone proteins increased endothelial cell (EC) Ca2+ influx and propidium iodide (PI) labeling, but paradoxically decreased vasodilation. These observations could be explained by the activation of an EC resident non-selective cation channel. We tested the hypothesis that the ionotropic purinergic receptor 7 (P2XR7), a non-selective cation channel associated with cationic dye uptake, is activated by histone proteins. We expressed mouse P2XR7 (C57BL/6J variant 451L) in heterologous cells and measured inward cation current using two-electrode voltage clamp (TEVC). Cells expressing mouse P2XR7 had robust ATP- and histone-evoked inward cation currents. ATP- and histone-evoked currents reversed approximately at the same potential. Current decay with agonist removal was slower for histone-evoked than ATP- or BzATP-evoked currents. As with ATP-evoked P2XR7 currents, histone-evoked currents were inhibited by non-selective P2XR7 antagonists (Suramin, PPADS, and TNP-ATP). Selective P2XR7 antagonists, AZ10606120, A438079, GW791343, and AZ11645373, inhibited ATP-evoked P2XR7 currents but did not inhibit histone-evoked P2XR7 currents. As previously reported with ATP-evoked currents, histone-evoked P2XR7 currents were also increased in conditions of low extracellular Ca2+. These data demonstrate that P2XR7 is necessary and sufficient for histone-evoked inward cation currents in a heterologous expression system. These results provide insight into a new allosteric mechanism of P2XR7 activation by histone proteins.

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