Adenosine receptor agonists: From basic medicinal chemistry to clinical development
Adenosine is a physiological nucleoside which acts as an autocoid and activates G protein-coupled membrane receptors, designated A1, A 2A, and A3. Adenosine plays an important role in many (patho)physiological conditions in the CNS as well as in peripheral organs and tissues. Adenosine receptors are present on virtually every cell. However, receptor subtype distribution and densities vary greatly. Adenosine itself is used as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of supraventricular paroxysmal tachycardia and arrhythmias and as a vasodilatatory agent in cardiac imaging. During the past 20 years, a number of selective agonists for A1, A2A and A3 adenosine receptors have been developed, all of them structurally derived from adenosine. Several such compounds are currently undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases (A 1 and A2A), pain (A1, wound healing (A 2A), diabetic foot ulcers (A2A), colorectal cancer (A 3) and rheumatoid arthritis (A3). Cli nical evaluation of some A1, and A2A adenosine receptor agonists has been discontinued. Major problems include side effects due to the wide distribution of adenosine receptors; low brain penetration, which is important for the targeting of CNS diseases; short half-lifes of compounds; or a lack of effects, in some cases perhaps due to receptor desensitisation or to low receptor density in the targeted tissue. Partial agonists, inhibitors of adenosine metabolism (adenosine kinase and deaminase inhibitors) or allosteric activators of adenosine receptors may be advantageous for certain indications, as they may exhibit fewer side effects.