Astra Award Lecture. Adenosine, adenosine receptors and the actions of caffeine

Pharmacol Toxicol. 1995 Feb;76(2):93-101. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0773.1995.tb00111.x.


Of the known biochemical actions of caffeine, only inhibition of adenosine receptors occurs at concentrations achieved during normal human consumption of the drug. Under normal physiological conditions, adenosine is present in sufficient concentrations to activate A1 and A2a receptors. Via actions on A1 receptors, adenosine decreases neuronal firing and the release of neurotransmitters. The exact mechanisms are not known, but several possibilities are discussed. Via actions on A2a receptors, adenosine--and hence caffeine--can influence dopaminergic neurotransmission. Caffeine can induce rapid changes in gene expression and, somewhat later, marked adaptive changes. These include antiepileptic and neuroprotective changes. Thus, caffeine has a number of central effects directly or indirectly related to adenosine receptors. Some of these are potentially useful, and drug development based on the actions of caffeine should be interesting.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Adenosine / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Awards and Prizes
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Pharmacology
  • Purinergic P1 Receptor Antagonists
  • Receptors, Purinergic P1 / metabolism*
  • Societies, Scientific


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Purinergic P1 Receptor Antagonists
  • Receptors, Purinergic P1
  • Caffeine
  • Adenosine