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Neuron. 2007 Dec 20;56(6):1034-47.

Potentiation of electrical and chemical synaptic transmission mediated by endocannabinoids.

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Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.


Endocannabinoids are well established as inhibitors of chemical synaptic transmission via presynaptic activation of the cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1R). Contrasting this notion, we show that dendritic release of endocannabinoids mediates potentiation of synaptic transmission at mixed (electrical and chemical) synaptic contacts on the goldfish Mauthner cell. Remarkably, the observed enhancement was not restricted to the glutamatergic component of the synaptic response but also included a parallel increase in electrical transmission. This effect involved the activation of CB1 receptors and was indirectly mediated via the release of dopamine from nearby varicosities, which in turn led to potentiation of the synaptic response via a cAMP-dependent protein kinase-mediated postsynaptic mechanism. Thus, endocannabinoid release can potentiate synaptic transmission, and its functional roles include the regulation of gap junction-mediated electrical synapses. Similar interactions between endocannabinoid and dopaminergic systems may be widespread and potentially relevant for the motor and rewarding effects of cannabis derivatives.

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