ATP has been indicated as a primary factor in microglial response to brain injury and inflammation. By acting on different purinergic receptors 2, ATP is known to induce chemotaxis and stimulate the release of several cytokines from these cells. The activation of purinergic receptors 2 in microglia can be triggered either by ATP deriving from dying cells, at sites of brain injury or by ATP released from astrocytes, in the absence of cell damage. By the use of a biochemical approach integrated with video microscopy experiments, we investigated the functional consequences triggered in microglia by ATP released from mechanically stimulated astrocytes, in mixed glial cocultures. Astrocyte-derived ATP induced in nearby microglia the formation and the shedding of membrane vesicles. Vesicle formation was inhibited by the ATP-degrading enzyme apyrase or by P2X(7)R antagonists. Isolation of shed vesicles, followed by IL-1beta evaluation by a specific ELISA revealed the presence of the cytokine inside the vesicular organelles and its subsequent efflux into the extracellular medium. IL-1beta efflux from shed vesicles was enhanced by ATP stimulation and inhibited by pretreatment with the P2X(7) antagonist oxidized ATP, thus indicating a crucial involvement of the pore-forming P2X(7)R in the release of the cytokine. Our data identify astrocyte-derived ATP as the endogenous factor responsible for microvesicle shedding in microglia and reveal the mechanisms by which astrocyte-derived ATP triggers IL-1beta release from these cells.