In the present review, we stress the importance of the purine nucleosides, adenosine and guanosine, in protecting the nervous system, both centrally and peripherally, via activation of their receptors and intracellular signalling mechanisms. A most novel part of the review focus on the mechanisms of neuronal regeneration that are targeted by nucleosides, including a recently identified action of adenosine on axonal growth and microtubule dynamics. Discussion on the role of the purine nucleosides transversally with the most established neurotrophic factors, e.g. brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), glial derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), is also focused considering the intimate relationship between some adenosine receptors, as is the case of the A2A receptors, and receptors for neurotrophins.
This article is part of the Special Issue entitled ‘Purines in Neurodegeneration and Neuroregeneration’.