Alveolar epithelium is composed of alveolar epithelial cells of type I (AEC I) and type II (AEC II). AEC II secrete lung surfactant by means of exocytosis. P2X(7) receptor (P2X(7)R), a P2 purinergic receptor, has been implicated in the regulation of synaptic transmission and inflammation. Here, we report that P2X(7)R, which is expressed in AEC I but not AEC II, is a novel mediator for the paracrine regulation of surfactant secretion in AEC II. In primary co-cultures of AEC I and AEC II benzoyl ATP (BzATP; an agonist of P2X(7)R) increased surfactant secretion, which was blocked by the P2X(7)R antagonist Brilliant Blue G. This effect was observed in AEC II co-cultured with human embryonic kidney HEK-293 cells stably expressing rat P2X(7)R, but not when co-cultured with AEC I in which P2X(7)R was knocked down or in co-cultures of AEC I and AEC II isolated from P2X(7)R(-/-) mice. BzATP-mediated secretion involved P2Y(2) receptor signaling because it was reduced by the addition of the ATP scavengers apyrase and adenosine deaminase and the P2Y(2) receptor antagonist suramin. However, the stimulation with BzATP might also release other substances that potentially increase surfactant secretion as a greater stimulation of secretion was observed in AEC II incubated with BzATP when co-cultured with E10 or HEK-293-P2X(7)R cells than with ATP alone. P2X(7)R(-/-) mice failed to increase surfactant secretion in response to hyperventilation, pointing to the physiological relevance of P2X(7)R in maintaining surfactant homeostasis in the lung. These results suggest that the activation of P2X(7)R increases surfactant secretion by releasing ATP from AEC I and subsequently stimulating P2Y(2) receptors in AEC II.