Effects of adenosine and adenine nucleotides on synaptic transmission in the cerebral cortex

Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 1979 Nov;57(11):1289-312. doi: 10.1139/y79-194.


Adenosine and the adenine nucleotides have a potent depressant action on cerebral cortical neurons, including identified corticospinal cells. Other purine and pyrimidine nucleotides were either weakly depressant (inosine and guanosine derivatives) or largely inactive (xanthine, cytidine, thymidine, uridine derivatives). The 5'-triphosphates and to a lesser extent the 5'-diphosphates of all the purine and pyrimidines tested had excitant actions on cortical neurons. Adenosine transport blockers and deaminase inhibitors depressed the firing of cortical neurons and potentiated the depressant actions of adenosine and the adenine nucleotides. Methylxanthines (theophylline, caffeine, and isobutylmethylxanthine) antagonized the depressant effects of adenosine and the adenine nucleotides and enhanced the spontaneous firing rate of cerebral cortical neurons. Intracellular recordings showed that adenosine 5'-monophosphate hyperpolarizes cerebral cortical neurons and suppresses spontaneous and evoked excitatory postsynaptic potentials in the absence of any pronounced alterations in membrane resistance or of the threshold for action potential generation. It is suggested that adenosine depresses spontaneous and evoked activity by inhibiting the release of transmitter from presynaptic nerve terminals. Furthermore, the depressant effects of potentiators and excitant effects of antagonists of adenosine on neuronal firing are consistent with the hypothesis that cortical neurons are subject to control by endogenously released purines.

MeSH terms

  • 1-Methyl-3-isobutylxanthine / pharmacology
  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Adenine Nucleotides / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Adenine Nucleotides / pharmacology*
  • Adenine Nucleotides / physiology
  • Adenosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Adenosine / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Adenosine / pharmacology*
  • Adenosine Deaminase Inhibitors
  • Adenosine Monophosphate / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Caffeine / pharmacology
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects*
  • Theophylline / pharmacology


  • Adenine Nucleotides
  • Adenosine Deaminase Inhibitors
  • Caffeine
  • Adenosine Monophosphate
  • Theophylline
  • Adenosine
  • 1-Methyl-3-isobutylxanthine