P2X receptors are ligand-gated ion channels that transduce many of the physiological effects of extracellular ATP. There has been a dramatic increase in awareness of these receptors over the past 5 or so years, in great part due to their molecular cloning and characterization. The availability of cDNA clones for the various subunits has led to rapid progress in identifying their tissue-specific expression, resulting in new ideas concerning the functional roles these receptors might play in physiological and pathophysiological processes. In addition, molecular approaches have yielded much information regarding the structure and function of the receptor proteins themeslves. In this review we seek to review recent findings concerning the molecular determinants of receptor-channel function, with particular focus on ligand binding and gating, ion selectivity, and subunit assembly.