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Hypertension. 1991 Nov;18(5):565-74.

Adenosine, the heart, and coronary circulation.

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  • 1First Department of Medicine, Osaka University School of Medicine, Japan.


Adenosine is known to regulate myocardial and coronary circulatory functions. Adenosine not only dilates coronary vessels, but attenuates beta-adrenergic receptor-mediated increases in myocardial contractility and depresses both sinoatrial and atrioventricular node activities. The effects of adenosine are mediated by two distinct receptors (i.e., A1 and A2 receptors). A1 adenosine receptors, located in atrial and ventricular myocardium and sinoatrial/atrioventricular nodes, are responsible for inhibition of adenylyl cyclase activity. A2 adenosine receptors, located in coronary endothelial and smooth muscle cells, are responsible for stimulation of this enzyme activity. During increased myocardial oxygen demand due to rapid pacing and exercise, although both coronary blood flow and adenosine concentrations in the myocardium and coronary efflux increased, there is no clear consensus explaining its cause and effect relation at present. However, ischemia/reperfusion-induced coronary hyperemia is believed to be mostly attributed to released adenosine, and it has been proven that adenosine attenuates the severity of ischemia due to its coronary vasodilatory action. The beneficial effects of adenosine during ischemia/reperfusion processes do not seem simple. This is because myocardial ischemia and reperfusion injury is caused by 1) activated leukocytes and platelets, 2) ATP depletion and calcium overload of myocardium, and 3) catecholamine release from the presynaptic nerves as well as 4) the impaired coronary circulation. Intriguingly adenosine attenuates all of these deleterious actions and thereby attenuates ischemia/reperfusion injury. Indeed, adenosine attenuates the severity of contractile dysfunction (myocardial stunning) and limits the infarct size. Thus, administration of adenosine or potentiators of adenosine production in the ischemic myocardium may be beneficial for the attenuation of ischemic and reperfusion injuries, although further clinical investigations are necessary.

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