One of the first and most enduring facts most students learn in biology class is that all living cells use a small molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as fuel. That universal energy currency drives the biological reactions that allow cells to function and life to flourish—making ATP a crucial player in the biological world.
Less commonly known, however, is that what is perhaps the most produced and consumed molecule in the human body also has a completely separate but no less essential role outside of cells. A long series of discoveries has now demonstrated beyond doubt that ATP is a critical signaling molecule that allows cells and tissues throughout the body to communicate with one another. The universal fuel, in effect, serves as a common language as well.