Adenosine is a signalling molecule that modulates cellular activity in the central nervous system and peripheral organs via four G protein-coupled receptors designated A1, A2A, A2B, and A3. This review surveys the literature on the role of adenosine in auditory function, particularly cochlear function and its protection from oxidative stress. The specific tissue distribution of adenosine receptors in the mammalian cochlea implicates adenosine signalling in sensory transduction and auditory neurotransmission although functional studies have demonstrated that adenosine stimulates cochlear blood flow, but does not alter the resting and sound-evoked auditory potentials. An interest in a potential otoprotective role for adenosine has recently evolved, fuelled by the capacity of A1 adenosine receptors to prevent cochlear injury caused by acoustic trauma and ototoxic drugs. The balance between A1 and A2A receptors is conceived as critical for cochlear response to oxidative stress, which is an underlying mechanism of the most common inner ear pathologies (e.g. noise-induced and age-related hearing loss, drug ototoxicity). Enzymes involved in adenosine metabolism, adenosine kinase and adenosine deaminase, are also emerging as attractive targets for controlling oxidative stress in the cochlea. Other possible targets include ectonucleotidases that generate adenosine from extracellular ATP, and nucleoside transporters, which regulate adenosine concentrations on both sides of the plasma membrane. Developments of selective adenosine receptor agonists and antagonists that can cross the blood-cochlea barrier are bolstering efforts to develop therapeutic interventions aimed at ameliorating cochlear injury. Manipulations of the adenosine signalling system thus hold significant promise in the therapeutic management of oxidative stress in the cochlea.
Keywords: Adenosine, adenosine receptors, cochlea, hearing, deafness, oxidative stress, noise, ototoxicity
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