For many years the neuromodulator adenosine has been recognized as an endogenous anticonvulsant molecule and termed a “retaliatory metabolite.” As the core molecule of ATP, adenosine forms a unique link between cell energy and neuronal excitability. In parallel, a ketogenic (high-fat, low-carbohydrate) diet is a metabolic therapy that influences neuronal activity significantly, and ketogenic diets have been used successfully to treat medically-refractory epilepsy, particularly in children, for decades. To date the key neural mechanisms underlying the success of dietary therapy are unclear, hindering development of analogous pharmacological solutions. Similarly, adenosine receptor – based therapies for epilepsy and myriad other disorders remain elusive. In this review we explore the physiological regulation of adenosine as an anticonvulsant strategy and suggest a critical role for adenosine in the success of ketogenic diet therapy for epilepsy. While the current focus is on the regulation of adenosine, ketogenic metabolism and epilepsy, the therapeutic implications extend to acute and chronic neurological disorders as diverse as brain injury, inflammatory and neuropathic pain, autism and hyperdopaminergic disorders. Emerging evidence for broad clinical relevance of the metabolic regulation of adenosine will be discussed.
Keywords: Metabolism, neuroprotection, neurodegeneration, sleep, pain, autism, addiction, dopamine
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