Adenosine is a purine nucleoside whose concentration increases during inflammation and hypoxia and the many roles of this molecule are becoming better understood. Increased reactivity to adenosine of the airways of asthmatic but not of normal subjects underlines the role of adenosine in airway inflammation. The identification and pharmacological characterisation of different adenosine receptors have
stimulated the search for subtype-specific ligands able to modulate the effects of this molecule in a directed way. Several compounds of different chemical classes have been identified as having potential drawbacks, including side effects resulting from the broad distribution of the receptors across the organism, have prevented clinical application. In this article, the effects of adenosine’s different receptors and the intracellular signalling pathways are reviewed. The potential of adenosine receptor modulation as a therapeutic target for chronic airway inflammation is considered, taking equine recurrent airway
disease and feline asthma as examples of naturally occurring airway obstructive diseases. Other potential applications for adenosine receptor modulation are also discussed. As the intrinsic molecular events of adenosine’s mechanism of action become uncovered, new concrete therapeutic approaches will become available for the treatment of various conditions in veterinary medicine.