Adenosine receptors: Emerging non-opioids targets for pain medications

Soo Min Jung, Lee Peyton, Hesham Essa, Doo Sup Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Physical and emotional pain deteriorates the quality of well-being. Also, numerous non-invasive and invasive treatments for diagnosed diseases such as cancer medications and surgical procedures cause various types of pain. Despite the multidisciplinary approaches available to manage pain, the unmet needs for medication with minimal side effects are substantial. Especially with the surge of opioid crisis during the last decades, non-opioid analgesics may reduce life-threatening overdosing and addictive liability. Although many clinical trials supported the potential potency of cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) in pain management or treatment, the long-term benefits of cannabis or CBD are still not evident. At the same time, growing evidence shows the risk of overusing cannabis and CBD. Therefore, it is urgent to develop novel analgesic medications that minimize side effects. All four well-identified adenosine receptors, A1, A2A, A2B, and A3, are implicated in pain. Recently, a report demonstrated that an adenosine A1R-specific positive allosteric modulator (PAM) is a potent analgesic without noticeable side effects. Also, several A3R agonists are being considered as promising analgesic agent. However, the importance of adenosine in pain is relatively underestimated. To help readers understand, first, we will summarize the historical perspective of the adenosine system in preclinical and clinical studies. Then, we will discuss possible interactions of adenosine and opioids or the cannabis system focusing on pain. Overall, this review will provide the potential role of adenosine and adenosine receptors in pain treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100087
JournalNeurobiology of Pain
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • Adenosine
  • Adenosine receptor
  • Antinociception
  • Opioid
  • Pain
  • Positive allosteric adenosine modulator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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