Circadian variations of adenosine and of its metabolism. Could adenosine be a molecular oscillator for circadian rhythms?

Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 1995 Mar;73(3):339-55. doi: 10.1139/y95-044.


The present review describes the biological implications of the periodic changes of adenosine concentrations in different tissues of the rat. Adenosine is a purine molecule that could have been formed in the prebiotic chemical evolution and has been preserved. The rhythmicity of this molecule, as well as its metabolism and even the presence of specific receptors, suggests a regulatory role in eukaryotic cells and in multicellular organisms. Adenosine may be considered a chemical messenger and its action could take place at the level of the same cell (autocrine), the same tissue (paracrine), or on separate organs (endocrine). Exploration of the circadian variations of adenosine was planned considering the liver as an important tissue for purine formation, the blood as a vehicle among tissues, and the brain as the possible acceptor for hepatic adenosine or its metabolites. The rats used in these studies were adapted to a dark-light cycle of 12 h with an unrestrained feeding and drinking schedule. The metabolic control of adenosine concentration in the different tissues studied through the 24-h cycle is related to the activity of adenosine-metabolizing enzyme: 5'-nucleotidase adenosine deaminase, adenosine kinase, and S-adenosylhomocysteine hydrolase. Some possibilities of the factors modulating the activity of these enzymes are commented upon. The multiphysiological action of adenosine could be mediated by several actions: (i) by interaction with extracellular and intracellular receptors and (ii) through its metabolism modulating the methylation pathway, possibly inducing physiological lipoperoxidation, or participating in the energetic homeostasis of the cell. The physiological meaning of the circadian variations of adenosine and its metabolism was focused on: maintenance of the energetic homeostasis of the tissues, modulation of membrane structure and function, regulation of fasting and feeding metabolic pattern, and its participation in the sleep-wake cycle. From these considerations, we suggest that adenosine could be a molecular oscillator involved in the circadian pattern of biological activity in the rat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine / metabolism
  • Adenosine / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Humans


  • Adenosine