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Adenosine modulates various vascular functions such as vasodilatation and anti-inflammation. The local concentration of adenosine in the vicinity of adenosine receptors is fine tuned by 2 classes of nucleoside transporters: equilibrative nucleoside transporters (ENTs) and concentrative nucleoside transporters (CNTs). In vascular smooth muscle cells, 95% of adenosine transport is mediated by ENT-1 and the rest by ENT-2. In endothelial cells, 60%, 10%, and 30% of adenosine transport are mediated by ENT-1, ENT-2, and CNT-2, respectively. In vitro studies show that glucose per se increases the expression level of ENT-1 via mitogen-activating protein kinase-dependent pathways. Similar results have been demonstrated in diabetic animal models. Hypertension is associated with the increased expression of CNT-2. It has been speculated that the increase in the activities of ENT-1 and CNT-2 may reduce the availability of adenosine to adenosine receptors, thereby weakening the vascular functions of adenosine. This may explain why patients with diabetes and hypertension suffer greater morbidity from ischemia and atherosclerosis. No oral hypoglycemic agents can inhibit ENTs, but an exception is troglitazone (a thiazolidinedione that has been withdrawn from the market). ENTs are also sensitive to dihydropyridine-type calcium-channel blockers, particularly nimodipine, which can inhibit ENT-1 in the nanomolar range. Those calcium-channel blockers are noncompetitive inhibitors of ENTs, probably working through the reversible interactions with allosteric sites. The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug sulindac sulfide is a competitive inhibitor of ENT-1. In addition to their original pharmacological actions, it is believed that the drugs mentioned above may regulate vascular functions through potentiation of the effects of adenosine.


Rachel W S Li, Cui Yang, Albert S M Sit, Sophie Y T Lin, Eva Y W Ho, George P H Leung. Physiological and pharmacological roles of vascular nucleoside transporters. Journal of cardiovascular pharmacology. 2012 Jan;59(1):10-5

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PMID: 21266914

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