June 1, 2021

Astrocytes and Adenosine A 2 A Receptors: Active Players in Alzheimer’s Disease

C R Lopes et al, 2021. Astrocytes and Adenosine A A Receptors: Active Players in Alzheimer’s Disease, Frontiers in Neuroscience, published online.


Astrocytes, through their numerous processes, establish a bidirectional communication with neurons that is crucial to regulate synaptic plasticity, the purported neurophysiological basis of memory. This evidence contributed to change the classic “neurocentric” view of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), being astrocytes increasingly considered a key player in this neurodegenerative disease. AD, the most common form of dementia in the elderly, is characterized by a deterioration of memory and of other cognitive functions. Although, early cognitive deficits have been associated with synaptic loss and dysfunction caused by amyloid-β peptides (Aβ), accumulating evidences support a role of astrocytes in AD. Astrocyte atrophy and reactivity occurring at early and later stages of AD, respectively, involve morphological alterations that translate into functional changes. However, the main signals responsible for astrocytic alterations in AD and their impact on synaptic function remain to be defined. One possible candidate is adenosine, which can be formed upon extracellular catabolism of ATP released by astrocytes. Adenosine can act as a homeostatic modulator and also as a neuromodulator at the synaptic level, through the activation of adenosine receptors, mainly of A1R and A2A R subtypes. These receptors are also present in astrocytes, being particularly relevant in pathological conditions, to control the morphofunctional responses of astrocytes. Here, we will focus on the role of A2A R, since they are particularly associated with neurodegeneration and also with memory processes. Furthermore, A2A R levels are increased in the AD brain, namely in astrocytes where they can control key astrocytic functions. Thus, unveiling the role of A2A R in astrocytes function might shed light on novel therapeutic strategies for AD.

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