Ph.D. Univ. of Massachusetts
In modern societies, with an increase in the older population, age-related neurodegenerative diseases have progressively become greater socioeconomic burdens. To date, despite the tremendous effort devoted to understanding neurodegenerative diseases in recent decades, treatment to delay disease progression is largely ineffective and is in urgent demand. The development of new strategies targeting these pathological features is a timely topic. It is important to note that most degenerative diseases are associated with the accumulation of specific misfolded proteins, which is facilitated by several common features of neurodegenerative diseases (including poor energy homeostasis and mitochondrial dysfunction). Adenosine is a purine nucleoside and neuromodulator in the brain. It is also an essential component of energy production pathways, cellular metabolism, and gene regulation in brain cells. The levels of intracellular and extracellular adenosine are thus tightly controlled by a handful of proteins (including adenosine metabolic enzymes and transporters) to maintain proper adenosine homeostasis. Notably, disruption of adenosine homeostasis in the brain under various pathophysiological conditions has been documented. In the past two decades, adenosine receptors (particularly A1 and A2A adenosine receptors) have been actively investigated as important drug targets in major degenerative diseases. Unfortunately, except for an A2A antagonist (istradefylline) administered as an adjuvant treatment with levodopa for Parkinson’s disease, no effective drug based on adenosine receptors has been developed for neurodegenerative diseases. In this review, we summarize the emerging findings on proteins involved in the control of adenosine homeostasis in the brain and discuss the challenges and future prospects for the development of new therapeutic treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and their associated disorders based on the understanding of adenosine homeostasis.