Adenosine deaminase: functional implications and different classes of inhibitors

Med Res Rev. 2001 Mar;21(2):105-28. doi: 10.1002/1098-1128(200103)21:2<105::aid-med1002>;2-u.


Adenosine deaminase (ADA) is an enzyme of the purine metabolism which catalyzes the irreversible deamination of adenosine and deoxyadenosine to inosine and deoxyinosine, respectively. This ubiquitous enzyme has been found in a wide variety of microorganisms, plants, and invertebrates. In addition, it is present in all mammalian cells that play a central role in the differentiation and maturation of the lymphoid system. However, despite a number of studies performed to date, the physiological role played by ADA in the different tissues is not clear. Inherited ADA deficiency causes severe combined immunodeficiency disease (ADA-SCID), in which both B-cell and T-cell development is impaired. ADA-SCID has been the first disorder to be treated by gene therapy, using polyethylene glycol-modified bovine ADA (PEG-ADA). Conversely, there are several diseases in which the level of ADA is above normal. A number of ADA inhibitors have been designed and synthesized, classified as ground-state and transition-state inhibitors. They may be used to mimic the genetic deficiency of the enzyme, in lymphoproliferative disorders or immunosuppressive therapy (i.e., in graft rejection), to potentiate the effect of antileukemic or antiviral nucleosides, and, together with adenosine kinase, to reduce breakdown of adenosine in inflammation, hypertension, and ischemic injury.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Deaminase / chemistry
  • Adenosine Deaminase / genetics
  • Adenosine Deaminase / metabolism*
  • Adenosine Deaminase / therapeutic use
  • Adenosine Deaminase Inhibitors*
  • Animals
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes
  • Molecular Structure
  • Severe Combined Immunodeficiency / enzymology
  • Severe Combined Immunodeficiency / therapy*
  • T-Lymphocytes / enzymology*


  • Adenosine Deaminase Inhibitors
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Isoenzymes
  • Adenosine Deaminase
  • pegademase bovine