C2-Arylethynyladenosine-5'-N-methyluronamides containing a bicyclo[3.1.0]hexane ((N)-methanocarba) ring are selective A(3) adenosine receptor (AR) agonists. Similar 4'-truncated C2-arylethynyl-(N)-methanocarba nucleosides containing alkyl or alkylaryl groups at the N(6) position were low-efficacy agonists or antagonists of the human A(3)AR with high selectivity. Higher hA(3)AR affinity was associated with N(6)-methyl and ethyl (K(i) 3-6 nM), than with N(6)-arylalkyl groups. However, combined C2-phenylethynyl and N(6)-2-phenylethyl substitutions in selective antagonist 15 provided a K(i) of 20 nM. Differences between 4'-truncated and nontruncated analogues of extended C2-p-biphenylethynyl substitution suggested a ligand reorientation in AR binding, dominated by bulky N(6) groups in analogues lacking a stabilizing 5'-uronamide moiety. Thus, 4'-truncation of C2-arylethynyl-(N)-methanocarba adenosine derivatives is compatible with general preservation of A(3)AR selectivity, especially with small N(6) groups, but reduced efficacy in A(3)AR-induced inhibition of adenylate cyclase.