The nucleoside adenosine has been shown to control the production of proinflammatory molecules through its actions on cell surface purine receptors. Previously, we have reported that the adenosine A1 receptor (A1AR) regulates tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) expression and exhibits diminished function in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS; Mayne et al., Ann Neurol 1999;45:633-639). In the present study, A1AR expression in both brain and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from MS and control groups was characterized by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and immunohistochemical analyses. FACS analyses of PBMC revealed that A1AR expression was chiefly detectable on CD14-positive cells and was reduced by 53.1% (p < 0.01) in MS patients compared to controls. A1AR mRNA levels were reduced by 43.1% (p < 0.001) in the brains of MS patients compared to patients with other neurological diseases and controls. A1AR protein expression in brain was detected primarily in CD45-positive glial cells and was markedly diminished in MS patients. The analysis of A1AR transcripts in the brain revealed that the A1AR-beta transcript was diminished (49.2%) in MS patients compared to controls (p < 0.002). These results indicate that the A1AR, expressed principally on cells of monocyte/macrophage lineage in both brain and blood, is selectively diminished in MS patients. Reduction of the A1AR-beta transcript in MS patients suggests that dysregulated splicing may influence A1AR protein levels, potentially leading to increased macrophage activation and central nervous system inflammation.