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Few signaling molecules have as much potential to influence the developing mammal as the nucleoside adenosine. Adenosine levels increase rapidly with tissue hypoxia and inflammation. Adenosine antagonists include the methylxanthines caffeine and theophylline. The receptors that transduce adenosine action are the A1, A2a, A2b, and A3 adenosine receptors (A1AR, A2aAR, A2bAR, and A3AR). We examined how adenosine acts via A1ARs to influence embryo development. Transgenic mice were studied along with embryo cultures. Embryos lacking A1ARs were markedly growth retarded following intrauterine hypoxia exposure. Studies of mice selectively lacking A1AR in the heart identify the heart as a key site of adenosine's embryo-protective effects. Studies of isolated embryos showed that adenosine plays a key role in modulating embryo cardiac function, especially in the setting of hypoxia. When pregnant mice were treated during embryogenesis with the adenosine antagonist caffeine, adult mice had abnormal heart function. Adenosine acts via A1ARs to play an essential role in protecting the embryo against intrauterine stress, and adenosine antagonists, including caffeine, may be an unwelcome exposure for the embryo.


Scott A Rivkees, Christopher C Wendler. Regulation of cardiovascular development by adenosine and adenosine-mediated embryo protection. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology. 2012 Apr;32(4):851-5

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PMID: 22423036

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