Adenosine research

Adenosine and its receptors, pathophysiological significance and therapeutic opportunities.

The focus of our research has been on adenosine receptors and on the actions of the most widely used of all psychoactive drugs, caffeine, which acts as an inhibitor at these receptors. There are four cloned forms of adenosine receptors and their pharmacological characteristics have been examined using CHO cells that express the human A1, A2A, A2B and A3 receptors. The signaling properties of the receptors are studied in the same cells, but also in several types of cells where they are naturally expressed.

By in situ hybridization, immunocytochemistry and receptor autoradiography the distribution of the receptors in tissues and cells is studied. In particular we have examined their ontogeny and how the local expression of the receptors is altered by long, or short-term drug treatment or physiological changes.

The natural ligand, adenosine, is a modulator rather than a transmitter or a hormone, and it is therefore important to examine how the adenosine receptors influence signaling mediated via other receptors. Considerable effort is spent on elucidating the interactions between co expressed A2A and dopamine D2 receptors, because this interaction is a key to the central actions of caffeine. In recent years our efforts have been concentrated on elucidating the pathophysiological roles of adenosine using receptor knockouts. Most recently the roles of adenosine receptors in the regulation of immune competent cells in the CNS and in the central regulation of metabolism have been of special interest.

Group members

  • Anthony Balmforth
  • Rodrigo Cunha
  • Gary DeLander
  • Tom Dunwiddie
  • Sixtus Hynie
  • Ewa Kontny
  • Mervin Maze
  • Fiona Parkinson
  • Felicita Pedatata
  • Harry Robertson
  • Vijay Urmalia


There are no ongoing experimental projects in the group. Current research rests on collaboration with other laboratories at the department and abroad.

Financial support

No major grants.


At the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology

In Sweden


  • Jiang-Fan Chen (Boston, Chengdu)
  • Cristina Limatola (Rom)
  • Luis Sobrevia (Santiago) 


A total of about 750 publications cited more than 44 000 times (Web of Science), h-index 102. 

Representative papers are:

Effects of adenosine on adrenergic neurotransmission; prejunctional inhibition and postjunctional enhancement.
Hedqvist P, Fredholm BB.
NAUNYN-SCHMIEDEBERGS ARCHIVES OF PHARMACOLOGY Volume: 293 Issue: 3 Pages: 217-223 DOI: 10.1007/BF00507344 Published: 1976. Cited: 310 times

Purine levels in the intact rat brain. Studies with an implanted perfused hollow fibre.
Zetterström T, Vernet L, Ungerstedt U, Tossman U, Jonzon B, Fredholm BB.
NEUROSCIENCE LETTERS Volume: 29 Issue: 2 Pages: 111-115 DOI: 10.1016/0304-3940(82)90338-X Published: 1982. Cited: 343 times

ATP and its metabolite adenosine act synergistically to mobilize intracellular calcium via the formation of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate in a smooth muscle cell line. 
Gerwins P, Fredholm BB.
JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY Volume: 267 Issue: 23 Pages: 16081-16087 Published: 1992. Cited: 119 times

Antagonism of adenosine A2A receptors underlies the behavioural activating effect of caffeine and is associated with reduced expression of messenger RNA for NGFI-A and NGFI-B in caudate-putamen and nucleus accumbens.
Svenningsson P, Nomikos GG, Ongini E, Fredholm BB.
NEUROSCIENCE Volume: 79 Issue: 3 Pages: 753-764 DOI: 10.1016/S0306-4522(97)00046-8 Published: 1997. Cited: 142 times

Actions of caffeine in the brain with special reference to factors that contribute to its widespread use.
Fredholm BB, Bättig K, Holmén J, Nehlig A, Zvartau EE.
PHARMACOLOGICAL REVIEWS Volume: 51 Issue: 1 Pages: 83-133 Published: 1999. Cited: 1869 times

Hyperalgesia, anxiety, and decreased hypoxic neuroprotection in mice lacking the adenosine A(1) receptor. 
Johansson B, Halldner L, Dunwiddie TV, et al.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Volume: 98 Issue: 16 Pages: 9407-9412 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.161292398 Published: 2001. Cited: 407 times

Comparison of the potency of adenosine as an agonist at human adenosine receptors expressed in Chinese hamster ovary cells. 
Fredholm BB, Irenius E, Kull B, Schulte G.
BIOCHEMICAL PHARMACOLOGY Volume: 61 Issue: 4 Pages: 443-448 DOI: 10.1016/S0006-2952(00)00570-0 Published: 2001. Cited: 353 times

Adenosine A2(A), but not A(1), receptors mediate the arousal effect of caffeine. 
Huang ZL, Qu WM, Eguchi N, Chen JF, et al.
NATURE NEUROSCIENCE Volume: 8 Issue: 7 Pages: 858-859 DOI: 10.1038/nn1491 Published: 2005. Cited: 419 times

Adenosine, an endogenous distress signal, modulates tissue damage and repair. 
Fredholm BB.
CELL DEATH AND DIFFERENTIATION Volume: 14 Issue: 7 Pages: 1315-1323 DOI: 10.1038/sj.cdd.4402132 Published: 2007. Cited: 530 times

Adenosine receptors as drug targets - what are the challenges? 
Chen JF, Eltzschig HK, Fredholm BB.
NATURE REVIEWS DRUG DISCOVERY Volume: 12 Issue: 4 Pages: 265-286 DOI: 10.1038/nrd3955 Published: 2013. Cited: 567 times


  • Fredholm, B. (ed) Methylxanthines. Handbook of experimental Pharmacology Vol 200. Springer 2011
  • Fredholm, B. Basal Farmakologi. Studentliteratur 2014.
  • Fredholm, B. Kaffeologi. Myter och forskning om en älskad dryck. Fri Tanke 2021.
  • Fredholm, B. Koffiekunde.Wat de wetenschap ons vertelt over dit gelieferte drankje. Amsterdam: New Scientist 2022. 
  • Fredholm, B. Människans eviga frågor. Sex essäer om vad vi kan och inte kan veta. Fr Tanke 2023. 


  • Bertil B. Fredholm (1970)
  • Paul Hjemdahl (1976)
  • Erik Belfrage (1978)
  • Jan Wager (1980)
  • Lars Gustafsson (1980)
  • Alf Sollevi (1981)
  • Göran Jurell (1981)
  • Bror Jonzon (1984)
  • Thomas Kahan (1985)
  • Johan Fastbom (1988)
  • Maria Ransjö (1988)
  • Olof Larsson (1989)
  • Janet Ng (1989)
  • Gabriel von Euler (1989)
  • Marianne Dunér Engström (1990)
  • Christer Nordstedt (1990)
  • Ping-Sheng Hu (1991)
  • Ingeborg van der Ploeg (1992)
  • Anders Kvanta (1992)
  • Pär Gerwins (1994)
  • Nedret Altiok (1995)
  • Björn Johansson (1996)
  • Shao-Yu Jin (1997)
  • Per Svenningsson (1999)
  • Björn Kull (2000)
  • Giulia Arslan (2000)
  • Ulrika Ådén (2001)
  • Gunnar Schulte (2003)
  • Linda Halldner (2003)
  • Stina Johansson (2007)
  • Olga Björklund (2008)
  • Kim Dekermendjian (2008)
  • Ricard Nergårdh (2008)
  • Jiangning Yang (2008)


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Bertil Fredholm

Professor Emeritus/Emerita
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