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Exp Neurol. 2012 Aug;236(2):327-35. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2012.05.016. Epub 2012 Jun 4.

Stress-induced sensitization of cortical adrenergic receptors following a history of cannabinoid exposure.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, Farber Institute for Neurosciences, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.


The cannabinoid receptor agonist, WIN 55,212-2, increases extracellular norepinephrine levels in the rat frontal cortex under basal conditions, likely via desensitization of inhibitory α2-adrenergic receptors located on norepinephrine terminals. Here, the effect of WIN 55,212-2 on stress-induced norepinephrine release was assessed in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), in adult male Sprague-Dawley rats using in vivo microdialysis. Systemic administration of WIN 55,212-2 30 min prior to stressor exposure prevented stress-induced cortical norepinephrine release induced by a single exposure to swim when compared to vehicle. To further probe cortical cannabinoid-adrenergic interactions, postsynaptic α2-adrenergic receptor (AR)-mediated responses were assessed in mPFC pyramidal neurons using electrophysiological analysis in an in vitro cortical slice preparation. We confirm prior studies showing that clonidine increases cortical pyramidal cell excitability and that this was unaffected by exposure to acute stress. WIN 55,212-2, via bath application, blocked postsynaptic α2-AR mediated responses in cortical neurons irrespective of exposure to stress. Interestingly, stress exposure prevented the desensitization of α2-AR mediated responses produced by a history of cannabinoid exposure. Together, these data indicate the stress-dependent nature of cannabinoid interactions via both pre- and postsynaptic ARs. In summary, microdialysis data indicate that cannabinoids restrain stress-induced cortical NE efflux. Electrophysiology data indicate that cannabinoids also restrain cortical cell excitability under basal conditions; however, stress interferes with these CB1-α2 AR interactions, potentially contributing to over-activation of pyramidal neurons in mPFC. Overall, cannabinoids are protective of the NE system and cortical excitability but stress can derail this protective effect, potentially contributing to stress-related psychopathology. These data add to the growing evidence of complex, stress-dependent modulation of monoaminergic systems by cannabinoids and support the potential use of cannabinoids in the treatment of stress-induced noradrenergic dysfunction.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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