Adenosine is a well-described anti-inflammatory modulator of immune responses within peripheral tissues. Extracellular adenosine accumulates in inflamed and damaged tissues and inhibits the effector functions of various immune cell populations, including CD8 T cells. However, it remains unclear whether extracellular adenosine also regulates the initial activation of naïve CD8 T cells by professional and semi-professional antigen-presenting cells, which determines their differentiation into effector or tolerant CD8 T cells, respectively. We show that adenosine inhibited the initial activation of murine naïve CD8 T cells after alphaCD3/CD28-mediated stimulation. Adenosine caused inhibition of activation, cytokine production, metabolic activity, proliferation and ultimately effector differentiation of naïve CD8 T cells. Remarkably, adenosine interfered efficiently with CD8 T-cell priming by professional antigen-presenting cells (dendritic cells) and semi-professional antigen-presenting cells (liver sinusoidal endothelial cells). Further analysis of the underlying mechanisms demonstrated that adenosine prevented rapid tyrosine phosphorylation of the key kinase ZAP-70 as well as Akt and ERK1/2 in naïve alphaCD3/CD28-stimulated CD8 cells. Consequently, alphaCD3/CD28-induced calcium-influx into CD8 cells was reduced by exposure to adenosine. Our results support the notion that extracellular adenosine controls membrane-proximal T-cell receptor signalling and thereby also differentiation of naïve CD8 T cells. These data raise the possibility that extracellular adenosine has a physiological role in the regulation of CD8 T-cell priming and differentiation in peripheral organs.