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Cerebellum. 2004;3(2):66-74.

Down-regulation of the AMPA glutamate receptor subunits GluR1 and GluR2/3 in the rat cerebellum following pre- and perinatal delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol exposure.

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Departamento Biología Celular y Genética, Universidad de Alcalá, Madrid, Spain.


This paper reports the effects of pre- and perinatal exposure to delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on expression levels of specific AMPA glutamate receptor subunits (GluR1 and GluR2/3) in the cerebellum of male and female rats. Pregnant rats were administered saline or THC from gestational day 5 (ED5) to postnatal day 20 (PD20). Expression of the GluR1 and GluR2/3 subunits of AMPA glutamate receptors was analyzed by immunohistochemistry in THC-exposed rats at three postnatal ages: PD20 (still exposed to THC) to study the direct effect of drug exposure, and PD30 and PD70 (10 and 50 days following THC withdrawal) to analyze the long-term effects of prenatal exposure. Compared to controls, pre- and perinatal THC exposure decreased the immunoreactivity levels of the GluR1 subunit in Bergmann glial cells, as well as levels of the GluR2/3 subunit in Purkinje neurons at PD20. These changes in AMPA receptor subunit levels may correlate with the decreased excitatory neurotransmission described in the cerebellum after cannabinoid treatment, which could play a significant role in the biochemical effects of THC. In addition, the reduced glutamate receptor expression observed at PD20 did not return to normal even after THC withdrawal (PD30 and PD70). The results support the idea that THC exposure during critical stages of cerebellar development may alter the glutamatergic system, not only during the drug exposure period itself but also in adults following THC withdrawal. The decreased expressions of glutamate receptors induced by developmental THC exposure could lead to functional alterations through the inhibition of glutamatergic neurotransmission, and clearly demonstrate an interaction between cannabinoids and the glutamatergic system.

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