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J Comp Neurol. 2002 Jul 8;448(4):410-22.

Localisation of cannabinoid CB(1) receptor immunoreactivity in the guinea pig and rat myenteric plexus.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland AB25 2ZD, United Kingdom.


Activation of cannabinoid CB(1) receptors inhibits gastrointestinal motility, propulsion, and transit, whereas selective antagonism of these receptors has the opposite effects, suggesting the presence of endocannabinoid tone. Supporting evidence for presynaptic CB(1) receptors on myenteric neurons has been found in vitro. In this study, selective CB(1) receptor antibodies and neuronal markers were used to identify and characterise myenteric neurons expressing cannabinoid receptors. Whole mounts of rat and guinea pig myenteric preparations were dually labelled with antibodies against the CB(1) receptor and choline acetyltransferase, neurofilament proteins, calbindin, calretinin, synapsin I, microtubule-associated protein-2, calcitonin gene-related peptide, or substance P. The pattern of CB(1) receptor labelling and the neurochemical classification of CB(1) receptor-positive cells were markedly influenced by the species and fixation procedure. Virtually all choline acetyltransferase-immunoreactive myenteric neurons expressed CB(1) receptors in ganglia from both species. Subpopulations of neurons identified with calbindin, calretinin, and microtubule-associated protein-2 did not express CB(1) receptors. A few calcitonin gene-related peptide- and substance P-positive somata coexpressed CB(1) receptor immunoreactivity but showed little colocalisation on individual fibres. There was a close association between CB(1) receptor immunoreactivity and fibres labelled for synaptic protein, suggesting a role in the modulation of transmitter release. Functional responses to cannabinoids in the presence of hexamethonium suggest further that CB(1) receptors occur on excitatory motoneurons. In conclusion, CB(1) receptors are expressed on a variety of cholinergic sensory, interneuronal, and motor neurons in myenteric ganglia.

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