We have used improved miniaturized adenosine biosensors to measure adenosine release during hypoxia from within the CA1 region of rat hippocampal slices. These microelectrode biosensors record from the extracellular space in the vicinity of active synapses as they detect the synaptic field potentials evoked in area CA1 by stimulation of the afferent Schaffer collateral-commissural fibre pathway. Our new measurements demonstrate the rapid production of adenosine during hypoxia that precedes and accompanies depression of excitatory transmission within area CA1. Simultaneous measurement of adenosine release and synaptic transmission gives an estimated IC50 for adenosine on transmission in the low micromolar range. However, on reoxygenation, synaptic transmission recovers in the face of elevated extracellular adenosine and despite a post-hypoxic surge of adenosine release. This may indicate the occurrence of apparent adenosine A1 receptor desensitization during metabolic stress. In addition, adenosine release is unaffected by pharmacological blockade of glutamate receptors and shows depletion on repeated exposure to hypoxia. Our results thus suggest that adenosine release is not a consequence of excitotoxic glutamate release. The potential for adenosine A1 receptor desensitization during metabolic stress implies that its prevention may be beneficial in extending adenosine-mediated neuroprotection in a variety of clinically relevant conditions.