Eighty years ago Drury & Szent-Gyorgyi described the actions of adenosine, AMP (adenylic acid) and ATP (pyrophosphoric or diphosphoric ester of adenylic acid) on the mammalian cardiovascular system, skeletal muscle, intestinal and urinary systems. Since then considerable insight has been gleaned on the means by which these compounds act, not least of which in the distinction between the two broad classes of their respective receptors, with their many subtypes, and the ensuing diversity in cellular consequences their activation invokes. These myriad actions are of course predicated on the release of the purines into the extracellular milieu, but, surprisingly, there is still considerable ambiguity as to how this occurs in various physiological and pathophysiological conditions. In this review we summarise the release of ATP and adenosine during seizures and cerebral ischemia and discuss mechanisms by which the purines adenosine and ATP may be released from cells in the CNS under these conditions.
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK.