Seeing through the smoke: Human and animal studies of cannabis use and endocannabinoid signalling in corticolimbic networks.
ABSTRACT: Public opinion surrounding the recreational use and therapeutic potential of cannabis is shifting. This review describes new work examining the behavioural and neural effects of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system, highlighting key regions within corticolimbic brain circuits. First, we consider the role of human genetic factors and cannabis strain chemotypic differences in contributing to interindividual variation in the response to cannabinoids, such as THC, and review studies demonstrating that THC-induced impairments in decision-making processes are mediated by actions at prefrontal CB1 receptors. We further describe evidence that signalling through prefrontal or ventral hippocampal CB1 receptors modulates mesolimbic dopamine activity, aberrations of which may contribute to emotional processing deficits in schizophrenia. Lastly, we review studies suggesting that endocannabinoid tone in the amygdala is a critical regulator of anxiety, and report new data showing that FAAH activity is integral to this response. Together, these findings underscore the importance of cannabinoid signalling in the regulation of cognitive and affective behaviours, and encourage further research given their social, political, and therapeutic implications.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE:Numerous claims are made for cannabis' therapeutic utility upon human seizures, but concerns persist about risks. A potential confounder is the presence of both Δ9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), variously reported to be pro- and anticonvulsant, and cannabidiol (CBD), widely confirmed as anticonvulsant. Therefore, we investigated effects of prolonged exposure to different THC/CBD cannabis extracts on seizure activity and associated measures of endocannabinoid (eCB) system signalling. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH:Cannabis extract effects on in vivo neurological and behavioural responses, and on bioanalyte levels, were measured in rats and dogs. Extract effects on seizure activity were measured using electroencephalography telemetry in rats. eCB signalling was also investigated using radioligand binding in cannabis extract-treated rats and treatment-naïve rat, mouse, chicken, dog and human tissue. KEY RESULTS:Prolonged exposure to cannabis extracts caused spontaneous, generalized seizures, subserved by epileptiform discharges in rats, but not dogs, and produced higher THC, but lower 11-hydroxy-THC (11-OH-THC) and CBD, plasma concentrations in rats versus dogs. In the same rats, prolonged exposure to cannabis also impaired cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1 receptor)-mediated signalling. Profiling CB1 receptor expression, basal activity, extent of activation and sensitivity to THC suggested interspecies differences in eCB signalling, being more pronounced in a species that exhibited cannabis extract-induced seizures (rat) than one that did not (dog). CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS:Sustained cannabis extract treatment caused differential seizure, behavioural and bioanalyte levels between rats and dogs. Supporting radioligand binding data suggest species differences in eCB signalling. Interspecies variations may have important implications for predicting cannabis-induced convulsions from animal models. LINKED ARTICLES:This article is part of a themed section on 8th European Workshop on Cannabinoid Research. To view the other articles in this section visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bph.v176.10/issuetoc.
Project description:The laws governing cannabis are evolving worldwide and associated with changing patterns of use. The main psychoactive drug in cannabis is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a partial agonist at the endocannabinoid CB1 receptor. Acutely, cannabis and THC produce a range of effects on several neurocognitive and pharmacological systems. These include effects on executive, emotional, reward and memory processing via direct interactions with the endocannabinoid system and indirect effects on the glutamatergic, GABAergic and dopaminergic systems. Cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in some forms of cannabis, may offset some of these acute effects. Heavy repeated cannabis use, particularly during adolescence, has been associated with adverse effects on these systems, which increase the risk of mental illnesses including addiction and psychosis. Here, we provide a comprehensive state of the art review on the acute and chronic neuropsychopharmacology of cannabis by synthesizing the available neuroimaging research in humans. We describe the effects of drug exposure during development, implications for understanding psychosis and cannabis use disorder, and methodological considerations. Greater understanding of the precise mechanisms underlying the effects of cannabis may also give rise to new treatment targets.
Project description:Beyond being one the most widely used psychoactive drugs in the world, cannabis has been identified as an environmental risk factor for psychosis. Though the relationship between cannabis use and psychiatric disorders remains controversial, consistent association between early adolescent cannabis use and the subsequent risk of psychosis suggested adolescence may be a particularly vulnerable period. Previous findings on gene by environment interactions indicated that cannabis use may only increase the risk for psychosis in the subjects who have a specific genetic vulnerability. The type 1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1), encoded by the CNR1 gene, is a key component of the endocannabinoid system. As the primary endocannabinoid receptor in the brain, CB1 is the main molecular target of the endocannabinoid ligand, as well as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive ingredient of cannabis. In this study, we have examined mRNA expression and DNA methylation of CNR1 in human prefrontal cortex (PFC), hippocampus, and caudate samples. The expression of CNR1 is higher in fetal PFC and hippocampus, then drops down dramatically after birth. The lifespan trajectory of CNR1 expression in the DLPFC differentially correlated with age by allelic variation at rs4680, a functional polymorphism in the COMT gene. Compared with COMT methionine158 carriers, Caucasian carriers of the COMT valine158 allele have a stronger negative correlation between the expression of CNR1 in DLPFC and age. In contrast, the methylation level of cg02498983, which is negatively correlated with the expression of CNR1 in PFC, showed the strongest positive correlation with age in PFC of Caucasian carriers of COMT valine158. Additionally, we have observed decreased mRNA expression of CNR1 in the DLPFC of patients with schizophrenia. Further analysis revealed a positive eQTL SNP, rs806368, which predicted the expression of a novel transcript of CNR1 in human DLPFC, hippocampus and caudate. This SNP has been associated with addiction and other psychiatric disorders. THC or ethanol are each significantly associated with dysregulated expression of CNR1 in the PFC of patients with affective disorder, and the expression of CNR1 is significantly upregulated in the PFC of schizophrenia patients who completed suicide. Our results support previous studies that have implicated the endocannabinoid system in the pathology of schizophrenia and provided additional insight into the mechanism of increasing risk for schizophrenia in the adolescent cannabis users.
Project description:Children exposed in utero to cannabis present permanent neurobehavioral and cognitive impairments. Psychoactive constituents from Cannabis spp., particularly ?(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), bind to cannabinoid receptors in the fetal brain. However, it is unknown whether THC can trigger a cannabinoid receptor-driven molecular cascade to disrupt neuronal specification. Here, we show that repeated THC exposure disrupts endocannabinoid signaling, particularly the temporal dynamics of CB1 cannabinoid receptor, to rewire the fetal cortical circuitry. By interrogating the THC-sensitive neuronal proteome we identify Superior Cervical Ganglion 10 (SCG10)/stathmin-2, a microtubule-binding protein in axons, as a substrate of altered neuronal connectivity. We find SCG10 mRNA and protein reduced in the hippocampus of midgestational human cannabis-exposed fetuses, defining SCG10 as the first cannabis-driven molecular effector in the developing cerebrum. CB1 cannabinoid receptor activation recruits c-Jun N-terminal kinases to phosphorylate SCG10, promoting its rapid degradation in situ in motile axons and microtubule stabilization. Thus, THC enables ectopic formation of filopodia and alters axon morphology. These data highlight the maintenance of cytoskeletal dynamics as a molecular target for cannabis, whose imbalance can limit the computational power of neuronal circuitries in affected offspring.
Project description:Cannabis sativa is the source of a unique set of compounds known collectively as plant cannabinoids or phytocannabinoids. This review focuses on the manner with which three of these compounds, (-)-trans-delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta9-THC), (-)-cannabidiol (CBD) and (-)-trans-delta9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (delta9-THCV), interact with cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors. Delta9-THC, the main psychotropic constituent of cannabis, is a CB1 and CB2 receptor partial agonist and in line with classical pharmacology, the responses it elicits appear to be strongly influenced both by the expression level and signalling efficiency of cannabinoid receptors and by ongoing endogenous cannabinoid release. CBD displays unexpectedly high potency as an antagonist of CB1/CB2 receptor agonists in CB1- and CB2-expressing cells or tissues, the manner with which it interacts with CB2 receptors providing a possible explanation for its ability to inhibit evoked immune cell migration. Delta9-THCV behaves as a potent CB2 receptor partial agonist in vitro. In contrast, it antagonizes cannabinoid receptor agonists in CB1-expressing tissues. This it does with relatively high potency and in a manner that is both tissue and ligand dependent. Delta9-THCV also interacts with CB1 receptors when administered in vivo, behaving either as a CB1 antagonist or, at higher doses, as a CB1 receptor agonist. Brief mention is also made in this review, first of the production by delta9-THC of pharmacodynamic tolerance, second of current knowledge about the extent to which delta9-THC, CBD and delta9-THCV interact with pharmacological targets other than CB1 or CB2 receptors, and third of actual and potential therapeutic applications for each of these cannabinoids.
Project description:Cannabis is a complex substance that harbors terpenoid-like compounds referred to as phytocannabinoids. The major psychoactive phytocannabinoid found in cannabis ∆(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) produces the majority of its pharmacological effects through two cannabinoid receptors, termed CB1 and CB2. The discovery of these receptors as linked functionally to distinct biological effects of THC, and the subsequent development of synthetic cannabinoids, precipitated discovery of the endogenous cannabinoid (or endocannabinoid) system. This system consists of the endogenous lipid ligands N- arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide; AEA) and 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG), their biosynthetic and degradative enzymes, and the CB1 and CB2 receptors that they activate. Endocannabinoids have been identified in immune cells such as monocytes, macrophages, basophils, lymphocytes, and dendritic cells and are believed to be enzymatically produced and released "on demand" in a similar fashion as the eicosanoids. It is now recognized that other phytocannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) can alter the functional activities of the immune system. This special edition of the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology (JNIP) presents a collection of cutting edge original research and review articles on the medical implications of phytocannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. The goal of this special edition is to provide an unbiased assessment of the state of research related to this topic from leading researchers in the field. The potential untoward effects as well as beneficial uses of marijuana, its phytocannabinoid composition, and synthesized cannabinoid analogs are discussed. In addition, the role of the endocannabinoid system and approaches to its manipulation to treat select human disease processes are addressed.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may stem from the formation of aberrant and enduring aversive memories. Some PTSD patients have recreationally used Cannabis, probably aiming at relieving their symptomatology. However, it is still largely unknown whether and how Cannabis or its psychotomimetic compound ?9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) attenuates the aversive/traumatic memory outcomes. Here, we seek to review and discuss the effects of THC on aversive memory extinction and anxiety in healthy humans and PTSD patients. METHODS:Medline, PubMed, Cochrane Library, and Central Register for Controlled Trials databases were searched to identify peer-reviewed published studies and randomized controlled trials in humans published in English between 1974 and July 2020, including those using only THC and THC combined with cannabidiol (CBD). The effect size of the experimental intervention under investigation was calculated. RESULTS:At low doses, THC can enhance the extinction rate and reduce anxiety responses. Both effects involve the activation of cannabinoid type-1 receptors in discrete components of the corticolimbic circuitry, which could couterbalance the low "endocannabinoid tonus" reported in PTSD patients. The advantage of associating CBD with THC to attenuate anxiety while minimizing the potential psychotic or anxiogenic effect produced by high doses of THC has been reported. The effects of THC either alone or combined with CBD on aversive memory reconsolidation, however, are still unknown. CONCLUSIONS:Current evidence from healthy humans and PTSD patients supports the THC value to suppress anxiety and aversive memory expression without producing significant adverse effects if used in low doses or when associated with CBD. Future studies are guaranteed to address open questions related to their dose ratios, administration routes, pharmacokinetic interactions, sex-dependent differences, and prolonged efficacy.
Project description:Cannabis use during adolescence is associated with an increased risk for schizophrenia and other disorders. The neuronal basis is unclear, but prefrontal cortical mechanisms have been implicated. Here, we investigated developmental changes in the endocannabinoid system by assessing expression and function of the CB1 cannabinoid receptor in prefrontal and other cortical areas in juvenile (postnatal day 25, P25), adolescent (P40), and adult (P70) rats. Overall, the expression of CB1 receptors in the cortex is highest in juveniles and drops thereafter toward adult levels. However, CB1 receptor expression follows distinct developmental trajectories in different cortical areas. The most pronounced and progressive decrease in CB1 expression was observed in medial prefrontal and other limbic/associative regions. In contrast, major changes in sensorimotor cortices occurred only after P40. We also assessed electrophysiological measures of CB1 receptor function and found that CB1-dependent inhibition of synaptic transmission in the prefrontal cortex follows the same developmental trajectory as observed for receptor expression. Together, these findings indicate that CB1 receptor-mediated signaling decreases during development but is differentially regulated in limbic/associative vs. sensorimotor systems. Therefore, cannabis use during adolescence likely differentially affects limbic/associative and sensorimotor cortical circuits.
Project description:Cannabis use has been associated with an increased risk to develop schizophrenia as well as symptom exacerbation in patients. In contrast, clinical studies have revealed an inverse relationship between the cerebrospinal fluid levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide and symptom severity, suggesting a therapeutic potential for endocannabinoid-enhancing drugs. Indeed, preclinical studies have shown that these drugs can reverse distinct behavioral deficits in a rodent model of schizophrenia. The mechanisms underlying the differences between exogenous and endogenous cannabinoid administration are currently unknown. Using the phencyclidine (PCP) rat model of schizophrenia, we compared the effects on neuronal activity of systematic administration of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with the fatty acid amide hydrolase inhibitor URB597. Specifically, we found that the inhibitory response in the prefrontal cortex to THC administration was absent in PCP-treated rats. In contrast, an augmented response to endocannabinoid upregulation was observed in the prefrontal cortex of PCP-treated rats. Interestingly, differential effects were also observed at the neuronal population level, as endocannabinoid upregulation induced opposite effects on coordinated activity when compared with THC. Such information is important for understanding why marijuana and synthetic cannabinoid use may be contraindicated in schizophrenia patients while endocannabinoid enhancement may provide a novel therapeutic approach.
Project description:Phytocannabinoids are psychotropic substances ofcannabis with the ability to bind endocannabinoid (eCB) receptors that regulate synaptic activity in the central nervous system (CNS). Synthetic cannabinoids (SCs) are synthetic analogs of ?9-tetrahydrocannabinol (?9-THC), the psychotropic compound of cannabis, acting as agonists of eCB receptor CB1. SC is an easily available and popular alternative to cannabis, and their molecular structure is always changing, increasing the hazard for the general population. The popularity of cannabis and its derivatives may lead, and often does, to a child's exposure to cannabis both in utero and through breastfeeding by a drug-consuming mother. Prenatal exposure to cannabis has been associated with an altered rate of mental development and significant changes in nervous system functioning. However, the understanding of mechanisms of its action on developing the human CNS is still lacking. We investigated the effect of continuous exposure to cannabinoids on developing human neurons, mimicking the prenatal exposure by drug-consuming mother. Two human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) lines were induced to differentiate into neuronal cells and exposed for 37 days to cannabidiol (CBD), ?9-THC, and two SCs, THJ-018 and EG-018. Both ?9-THC and SC, at 10 ?M, promote precocious neuronal and glial differentiation, while CBD at the same concentration is neurotoxic. Neurons exposed to ?9-THC and SC show abnormal functioning of voltage-gated calcium channels when stimulated by extracellular potassium. In sum, all studied substances have a profound impact on the developing neurons, highlighting the importance of thorough research on the impact of prenatal exposure to natural and SC.