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Med Res Rev. 2006 Mar;26(2):131-59.

Progress in the pursuit of therapeutic adenosine receptor antagonists.

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Molecular Modeling Section, Dipartimento di Scienze Farmaceutiche, Università di Padova, Via Marzolo 5, I-35131 Padova, Italy.


Ever since the discovery of the hypotensive and bradycardiac effects of adenosine, adenosine receptors continue to represent promising drug targets. First, this is due to the fact that the receptors are expressed in a large variety of tissues. In particular, the actions of adenosine (or methylxanthine antagonists) in the central nervous system, in the circulation, on immune cells, and on other tissues can be beneficial in certain disorders. Second, there exists a large number of ligands, which have been generated by introducing several modifications in the structure of the lead compounds (adenosine and methylxanthine), some of them highly specific. Four adenosine receptor subtypes (A1, A2A, A2B, and A3) have been cloned and pharmacologically characterized, all of which are G protein-coupled receptors. Adenosine receptors can be distinguished according to their preferred mechanism of signal transduction: A1 and A3 receptors interact with pertussis toxin-sensitive G proteins of the Gi and Go family; the canonical signaling mechanism of the A2A and of the A2B receptors is stimulation of adenylyl cyclase via Gs proteins. In addition to the coupling to adenylyl cyclase, all four subtypes may positively couple to phospholipase C via different G protein subunits. The development of new ligands, in particular, potent and selective antagonists, for all subtypes of adenosine receptors has so far been directed by traditional medicinal chemistry. The availability of genetic information promises to facilitate understanding of the drug-receptor interaction leading to the rational design of a potentially therapeutically important class of drugs. Moreover, molecular modeling may further rationalize observed interactions between the receptors and their ligands. In this review, we will summarize the most relevant progress in developing new therapeutic adenosine receptor antagonists.

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