The adenosine metabolite inosine is a functional agonist of the adenosine A2A receptor with a unique signaling bias

Cell Signal. 2016 Jun;28(6):552-60. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2016.02.010. Epub 2016 Feb 19.


Inosine is an endogenous purine nucleoside that is produced by catabolism of adenosine. Adenosine has a short half-life (approximately 10s) and is rapidly deaminated to inosine, a stable metabolite with a half-life of approximately 15h. Resembling adenosine, inosine acting through adenosine receptors (ARs) exerts a wide range of anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects in vivo. The immunomodulatory effects of inosine in vivo, at least in part, are mediated via the adenosine A2A receptor (A2AR), an observation that cannot be explained fully by in vitro pharmacological characterization of inosine at the A2AR. It is unclear whether the in vivo effects of inosine are due to inosine or a metabolite of inosine engaging the A2AR. Here, utilizing a combination of label-free, cell-based, and membrane-based functional assays in conjunction with an equilibrium agonist-binding assay we provide evidence for inosine engagement at the A2AR and subsequent activation of downstream signaling events. Inosine-mediated A2AR activation leads to cAMP production with an EC50 of 300.7μM and to extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1 and -2 (ERK1/2) phosphorylation with an EC50 of 89.38μM. Our data demonstrate that inosine produces ERK1/2-biased signaling whereas adenosine produces cAMP-biased signaling at the A2AR, highlighting pharmacological differences between these two agonists. Given the in vivo stability of inosine, our data suggest an additional, previously unrecognized, mechanism that utilizes inosine to functionally amplify and prolong A2AR activation in vivo.

Keywords: A(2A)R; Adenosine; ERK1/2; Inosine; Signaling bias; cAMP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine A2 Receptor Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Inverse Agonism
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inosine / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Receptor, Adenosine A2A / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Adenosine A2 Receptor Agonists
  • Receptor, Adenosine A2A
  • Inosine
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases