Tuning and fine-tuning of synapses with adenosine

Curr Neuropharmacol. 2009 Sep;7(3):180-94. doi: 10.2174/157015909789152128.


The 'omnipresence' of adenosine in all nervous system cells (neurons and glia) together with the intensive release of adenosine following insults, makes adenosine as a sort of 'maestro' of synapses leading to the homeostatic coordination of brain function. Besides direct actions of adenosine on the neurosecretory mechanisms, where adenosine operates to tune neurotransmitter release, receptor-receptor interactions as well as interplays between adenosine receptors and transporters occur as part of the adenosine's attempt to fine tuning synaptic transmission. This review will focus on the different ways adenosine can use to trigger or brake the action of several neurotransmitters and neuromodulators. Adenosine receptors cross talk with other G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), with ionotropic receptors and with receptor kinases. Most of these interactions occur through A2A receptors, which in spite their low density in some brain areas, such as the hippocampus, may function as metamodulators. Tonic adenosine A2A receptor activity is a required step to allow synaptic actions of neurotrophic factors, namely upon synaptic transmission at both pre- and post-synaptic level as well as upon synaptic plasticity and neuronal survival. The implications of these interactions in normal brain functioning and in neurologic and psychiatric dysfunction will be discussed.

Keywords: Adenosine; G protein coupled receptors; epilepsy; ionotropic receptors; metamodulation; neurodegenerative diseases; receptor cross-talk; receptor kinases..