Adenosine 5'-triphosphate and adenosine as endogenous signaling molecules in immunity and inflammation

M.J.L. Bours*, E.L.R. Swennen, F. Di Virgilio, B.N. Cronstein, P.C. Dagnelie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Human health is under constant threat of a wide variety of dangers, both self and nonself. The immune system is occupied with protecting the host against such dangers in order to preserve human health. For that purpose, the immune system is equipped with a diverse array of both cellular and non-cellular effectors that are in continuous communication with each other. The naturally occurring nucleotide adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) and its metabolite adenosine (Ado) probably constitute an intrinsic part of this extensive immunological network through purinergic signaling by their cognate receptors, which are widely expressed throughout the body. This review provides a thorough overview of the effects of ATP and Ado on major immune cell types. The overwhelming evidence indicates that ATP and Ado are important endogenous signaling molecules in immunity and inflammation. Although the role of ATP and Ado during the course of inflammatory and immune responses in vivo appears to be extremely complex, we propose that their immunological role is both interdependent and multifaceted, meaning that the nature of their effects may shift from immunostimulatory to immunoregulatory or vice versa depending on extracellular concentrations as well as on expression patterns of purinergic receptors and ecto-enzymes. Purinergic signaling thus contributes to the fine-tuning of inflammatory and immune responses in such a way that the danger to the host is eliminated efficiently with minimal damage to healthy tissues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-404
JournalPharmacology & Therapeutics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006


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