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Adv Pharmacol. 2011;61:95-114. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-385526-8.00004-7.

Regulation of leukocyte function by adenosine receptors.

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Division of Inflammation Biology, La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology, California, USA.


The immune system responds to cues in the microenvironment to make acute and chronic adaptations in response to inflammation and injury. Locally produced purine nucleotides and adenosine provide receptor-mediated signaling to all bone-marrow derived cells of the immune system to modulate their responses. This review summarizes recent advances in our understanding of the effects of adenosine signaling through G protein-coupled adenosine receptors on cells of the immune system. Adenosine A(2A) receptors (A(2A)Rs) have a generally suppressive effect on the activation of immune cells. Moreover, their transcription is strongly induced by signals that activate macrophages or dendritic cells through toll-like receptors, or T cells through T cell receptors. A(2A)R induction is responsible for producing a gradual dissipation of inflammatory responses. A(2A)R activation is particularly effective in limiting the activation of invariant NKT (iNKT) cells that play a central role in acute reperfusion injury. A(2A) agonists have clinical promise for the treatment of vaso-occlusive tissue injury. Blockade of A(2A) receptors may be useful to enhance immune-mediated killing of cancer cells. A(2B)R expression also is transcriptionally regulated by hypoxia, cytokines, and oxygen radicals. Acute A(2B)R activation attenuates the production of proinflammatory cytokines from macrophages, but sustained activation facilitates macrophage and dendritic cell remodeling and the production of acute phase proteins and angiogenic factors that may participate in evoking insulin resistance and tissue fibrosis. A(2B)R activation also influences macrophage and neutrophil function by influencing expression of the anti-inflammatory netrin receptor, UNC5B. The therapeutic significance of adenosine-mediated effects on the immune system is discussed.

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