Adolescent Synthetic Cannabinoid Exposure Produces Enduring Changes in Dopamine Neuron Activity in a Rodent Model of Schizophrenia Susceptibility.
ABSTRACT: Epidemiological studies recognize cannabis intake as a risk factor for schizophrenia, yet the majority of adolescents who use marijuana do not develop psychosis. Similarly, the abuse of synthetic cannabinoids poses a risk for psychosis. For these reasons, it is imperative to understand the effects of adolescent cannabinoid exposure in susceptible individuals.We recently developed a novel rodent model of schizophrenia susceptibility, the F2 methylazoxymethanol acetate rat, where only a proportion (~40%) of rats display a schizophrenia-like phenotype. Using this model, we examined the effects of adolescent synthetic cannabinoid exposure (0.2 mg/kg WIN55, 212-2, i.p.) or adolescent endocannabinoid upregulation (0.3 mg/kg URB597, i.p.) on dopamine neuron activity and amphetamine sensitivity in adulthood.Adolescent synthetic cannabinoid exposure significantly increased the proportion of susceptible rats displaying a schizophrenia-like hyperdopaminergic phenotype after puberty without producing any observable alterations in control rats. Furthermore, this acquired phenotype appears to correspond with alterations in parvalbumin interneuron function within the hippocampus. Endocannabinoid upregulation during adolescence also increased the proportion of susceptible rats developing an increase in dopamine neuron activity; however, it did not alter the behavioral response to amphetamine, further emphasizing differences between exogenous and endogenous cannabinoids.Taken together, these studies provide experimental evidence that adolescent synthetic cannabinoid exposure may contribute to psychosis in susceptible individuals.
Project description:Adolescent exposure to cannabinoids in vulnerable individuals is proposed to be a risk factor for psychiatric conditions later in life, particularly schizophrenia. Evidence from studies in animals has indicated that a combination of repeated pubertal cannabinoid administration with either neonatal prefrontocortical lesion, isolation rearing, or chronic NMDA receptor antagonism administration induces enhanced schizophrenia-like behavioral disruptions. The effects of adolescent exposure to CB1 receptor agonists, however, have not been tested in a developmental disruption model of schizophrenia.This was tested in the methylazoxymethanol (MAM) model, in which repeated treatment with the synthetic cannabinoid agonist WIN 55,212-2 (WIN; 1.2mg/kg) was extended over 25 days throughout puberty (postnatal days 40-65) in control and MAM rats. The rats received 20 injections, which were delivered irregularly to mimic the human condition. Adult rats were tested for attentional set-shifting task and locomotor response to amphetamine, which was compared with in vivo recording from ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine (DA) neurons.MAM-treated rats showed impairment in the attentional set-shifting task, augmented locomotor response to amphetamine administration, and an increased number of spontaneously active DA neurons in the VTA. Interestingly, pubertal WIN treatment in normal animals induced similar changes at adulthood as those observed in MAM-treated rats, supporting the notion that adolescence exposure to cannabinoids may represent a risk factor for developing schizophrenia-like signs at adulthood. However, contrary to expectations, pubertal WIN administration did not exacerbate the behavioral and electrophysiological changes in MAM-treated rats beyond that observed in WIN-treated saline rats (Sal). Indeed, WIN treatment actually attenuated the locomotor response to amphetamine in MAM rats without impacting DA neuron activity states.Taken together, the present results indicate that the impact of cannabinoids during puberty/adolescence on schizophrenia models is more complex than may be predicted.
Project description:Regular marijuana use during adolescence, but not adulthood, may permanently impair cognition and increase the risk for psychiatric diseases, such as schizophrenia. Cortical oscillations are integral for cognitive processes and are abnormal in patients with schizophrenia. We test the hypothesis that adolescence is a sensitive period because of the active development of cortical oscillations and neuromodulatory systems that underlie them. The endocannabinoid system upon which marijuana acts is one such system. Here we test the prediction that adolescent cannabinoid exposure alters cortical oscillations in adults. Using in vitro local field potential, in vivo electrocorticogram recordings and cognitive behavioral testing in adult mice, we demonstrate that chronic adolescent, but not adult, cannabinoid exposure suppresses pharmacologically evoked cortical oscillations and impairs working memory performance in adults. The later-maturing prefrontal cortex is more sensitive to adolescent exposure than the earlier-maturing, primary somatosensory cortex. These data establish a link between chronic adolescent cannabinoid exposure and alterations in adult cortical network activity that underlie cognitive processes.
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:Social withdrawal in the sub-chronic phencyclidine (PCP) rat model, a behavioral correlate of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, results from deficits in brain endocannabinoid transmission. As cannabis intake has been shown to affect negatively the course and expression of psychosis, we tested whether the beneficial effects of endocannabinoid-mediated CB1 activation on social withdrawal in PCP-treated rats (5 mg/kg, twice daily for 7 days)also occurred after administration of ?9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC; 0.1, 0.3, 1.0 mg/kg, i.p.). In addition, we assessed whether THC affected two correlates of positive symptoms: 1) motor activity induced by d-amphetamine (0.5 mg/kg, i.p.), and 2) dopamine neuron population activity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). After the motor activity test, the brains from d-amphetamine-treated animals were collected and processed for measurements of endocannabinoids and activation of Akt/GSK3?, two molecular markers involved in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. In control rats, THC dose-dependently produced social interaction deficits and aberrant VTA dopamine neuron population activity similar to those observed in PCP-treated animals. In PCP-treated rats, only the lowest dose of THC reversed PCP-induced deficits, as well as PCP-induced elevation of the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) in the nucleus accumbens. Last, THC activated the Akt/GSK3? pathway dose-dependently in both control and PCP-treated animals. Taken together, these data suggest that only low doses of THC have beneficial effects on behavioral, neurochemical and electrophysiological correlates of schizophrenia symptoms. This observation may shed some light on the controversial hypothesis of marijuana use as self-medication in schizophrenic patients.
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:The endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-arachydonoylglycerol (2-AG) are lipids naturally derived from membrane precursors which bind cannabinoid receptors (CB, CB). This endocannabinoid system is disturbed in schizophrenia. Indeed, there seems to be an association between schizophrenia and polymorphisms of the CB receptor gene. Moreover, CB receptors are found in higher density in the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and basal ganglia of patients with schizophrenia. Similarly, anandamide levels are increased in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and in the serum of schizophrenia patients, including during the prodromal state, suggesting that they may play a protective role in psychosis homeostasis. Future studies are needed to further explore the role of the endocannabinoid system in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.
Project description:The use of cannabis is a well-established component risk factor for schizophrenia, particularly in adolescent individuals with genetic predisposition for the disorder. Alterations to the endocannabinoid system have been found in the prefrontal cortex of patients with schizophrenia. Thus, we assessed whether molecular alterations exist in the endocannabinoid signalling pathway during brain development in a mouse model for the schizophrenia risk gene neuregulin 1 (Nrg1). We analysed transcripts encoding key molecules of the endocannabinoid system in heterozygous transmembrane domain Nrg1 mutant mice (Nrg1 TM HET), which is known to have increased sensitivity to cannabis exposure. Tissue from the prelimbic cortex and hippocampus of male and female Nrg1 TM HET mice and wild type-like littermates was collected at postnatal days (PNDs) 7, 10, 14, 21, 28, 35, 49, and 161. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction was conducted to assess mRNA levels of cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1R) and enzymes for the synthesis and breakdown of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol [i.e., diacylglycerol lipase alpha (DAGL?), monoglyceride lipase (MGLL), and ?/?-hydrolase domain-containing 6 (ABHD6)]. No sex differences were found for any transcripts in either brain region; thus, male and female data were pooled. Hippocampal and cortical mRNA expression of DAGL?, MGLL, and ABHD6 increased until PND 21-35 and then decreased and stabilised for the rest of postnatal development. Hippocampal CB1R mRNA expression increased until PND 21 and decreased after this age. Expression levels of these endocannabinoid markers did not differ in Nrg1 TM HET compared to control mice at any time point. Here, we demonstrate dynamic changes in the developmental trajectory of several key endocannabinoid system transcripts in the mouse brain, which may correspond with periods of endocannabinoid system maturation. Nrg1 TM HET mutation did not alter the developmental trajectory of the endocannabinoid markers assessed, suggesting that other mechanisms may be responsible for the exaggerated cannabinoid susceptibility in these mice.
Project description:BACKGROUND: All antipsychotics work via dopamine D2 receptors (D2Rs), suggesting a critical role for D2Rs in psychosis; however, there is little evidence for a change in receptor number or pharmacological nature of D2Rs. Recent data suggest that D2Rs form dimers in-vitro and in-vivo, and we hypothesized that schizophrenia, as well as preclinical models of schizophrenia, would demonstrate altered dimerization of D2Rs, even though the overall number of D2Rs was unaltered. METHODS: We measured the expression of D2Rs dimers and monomers in patients with schizophrenia using Western blots, and then in striatal tissue from rats exhibiting the amphetamine-induced sensitized state (AISS). We further examined the interaction between D2Rs and the dopamine transporter (DAT) by co-immunoprecipitation, and measured the expression of dopamine D2High receptors with ligand binding assays in rat striatum slices with or without acute amphetamine pre-treatment. RESULTS: We observed significantly enhanced expression of D2Rs dimers (277.7 ± 33.6%) and decreased expression of D2Rs monomers in post-mortem striatal tissue of schizophrenia patients. We found that amphetamine facilitated D2Rs dimerization in both the striatum of AISS rats and in rat striatal neurons. Furthermore, amphetamine-induced D2Rs dimerization may be associated with the D2R-DAT protein-protein interaction as an interfering peptide that disrupts the D2R-DAT coupling, blocked amphetamine-induced up-regulation of D2Rs dimerization. CONCLUSIONS: Given the fact that amphetamine induces psychosis and that the AISS rat is a widely accepted animal model of psychosis, our data suggest that D2R dimerization may be important in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and may be a promising new target for novel antipsychotic drugs.
Project description:Cannabis is one of the most commonly used drugs among adolescents, with initial use beginning between the ages of 12 to 17. Although often perceived as a 'soft drug', both short- and long-term use have been associated with numerous adverse outcomes, including cognitive impairment, increased risk of substance abuse, and heightened risk of psychosis or schizophrenia in individuals with a predisposition. Further, the severity of these impairments is closely linked to initiation of use, i.e. earlier use increases risk. It has been suggested that adolescent vulnerability to the adverse consequences of cannabis use is due to ongoing brain development occurring during this time. Indeed, the adolescent brain continues to be remodeled well into adolescence and early adulthood, particularly in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) has been implicated in reward processing and decision-making and alterations in mPFC development due to adolescent cannabis exposure could impair these functions. To model the effects of cannabis on mPFC function, we administered the synthetic cannabinoid WIN 55, 212-2 (WIN) to male and female rats from postnatal day 30-60. Once animals reached adulthood, we used a Probabilistic Reward (PR) choice task to elicit PFC activity and measure how patterns of activity to task-related events were modulated by adolescent WIN-treatment. Adult animals showed subtle effects of WIN-treatment on choice patterns. During task performance, mPFC activity elicited by lever press at the time of choices and reward delivery following choices were reduced in WIN-treated animals. This lasting effect of WIN suggests an impairment of the maturation of excitatory-inhibitory balance of signals in mPFC during adolescence, which may alter executive function into adulthood.
Project description:The brain endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in emotional processes. We have previously identified an important role for endocannabinoids in social play behavior, a highly rewarding form of social interaction in adolescent rats. Here, we tested the hypothesis that endocannabinoid modulation of social play behavior occurs in brain regions implicated in emotion and motivation. Social play increased levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide in the amygdala and nucleus accumbens (NAc), but not in prefrontal cortex or hippocampus of 4- to 5-week-old male Wistar rats. Furthermore, social play increased phosphorylation of CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the amygdala. Systemic administration of the anandamide hydrolysis inhibitor URB597 increased social play behavior, and augmented the associated elevation in anandamide levels in the amygdala, but not the NAc. Infusion of URB597 into the basolateral amygdala (BLA) increased social play behavior, and blockade of BLA CB1 cannabinoid receptors with the antagonist/inverse agonist SR141716A prevented the play-enhancing effects of systemic administration of URB597. Infusion of URB597 into the NAc also increased social play, but blockade of NAc CB1 cannabinoid receptors did not antagonize the play-enhancing effects of systemic URB597 treatment. Last, SR141716A did not affect social play after infusion into the core and shell subregions of the NAc, while it reduced social play when infused into the BLA. These data show that increased anandamide signaling in the amygdala and NAc augments social play, and identify the BLA as a prominent site of action for endocannabinoids to modulate the rewarding properties of social interactions in adolescent rats.