Now there is general agreement that the purine nucleoside adenosine is an important neuromodulator in the central nervous system, playing a crucial role in neuronal excitability and synaptic/non-synaptic transmission in the hippocampus and basal ganglia. Adenosine is derived from the breakdown of extra- or intracellular ATP and is released upon a variety of physiological and pathological stimuli from neuronal and non-neuronal sources, i.e. from glial cells and exerts effects diffusing far away from release sites. The resultant elevation of adenosine levels in the extracellular space reaches micromolar level, and leads to the activation A1, A2A, A2B and A3 receptors, localized to pre- and postsynaptic as well as extrasynaptic sites. Activation of presynaptic A1 receptors inhibits the release of the majority of transmitters including glutamate, acetylcholine, noradrenaline, 5-HT and dopamine, whilst the stimulation of A2A receptors facilitates the release of glutamate and acetylcholine and inhibits the release of GABA. These actions underlie modulation of neuronal excitability, synaptic plasticity and coordination of neural networks and provide intriguing target sites for pharmacological intervention in ischemia and Parkinsons disease. However, despite that adenosine is also released during ischemia, A1 adenosine receptors do not participate in the modulation of excitotoxic glutamate release, which is nonsynaptic and is due to the reverse operation of transporters. Instead, extrasynaptic A1 receptors might be responsible for the neuroprotection afforded by A1 receptor activation.
Keywords: Adenosine, A1 receptor, A2A receptor, ATP, hippocampus, striatum, neuromodulator, GABA, neuronal excitability, excitotoxic glutamate release, neuroprotection, Ca2+-influx, ambient concentrations, Gi-coupled receptors
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