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Neuroscience. 1991;43(2-3):713-23.

Effects of pre- and perinatal exposure to hashish extracts on the ontogeny of brain dopaminergic neurons.

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Department of Biochemistry (Faculty of Medicine), Complutense University, Madrid, Spain.


The changes induced by maternal exposure to cannabinoids in the maturation of nigrostriatal, tuberoinfundibular and mesolimbic dopaminergic activities of rat offspring 15-40 days old were studied. In the striatum, tyrosine hydroxylase activity was constantly decreased during cannabinoid exposure in males. This decrease was correlative to increased number of D1 and D2 dopaminergic receptors. Both effects were also observed after the drug withdrawal caused by weaning on day 24. In females, the most consistent effect appeared on day 20, when decreased dopamine content and number of D1 receptors were observed. Both effects disappeared after drug withdrawal, but the reduction in the number of D1 receptors was again observed 40 days after birth. In the limbic area, cannabinoid exposure caused a decrease in the number of D1 receptors in 15-day-old females, along with decreases in the content of dopamine and its metabolite, L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid. Changes in receptors disappeared on subsequent days, but increases in L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid content and in its ratio with dopamine (L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid/dopamine) were observed on day 20 followed by a decrease in the neurotransmitter content on day 30. In males, tyrosine hydroxylase activity increased on day 30, followed by an increase in L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid content and L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid/dopamine ratio on day 40. In the hypothalamus, the cannabinoid effects were always manifested after the cessation of drug exposure. Thus, a rise in L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid/dopamine ratio was observed in 30-day-old females, and it was followed by a decrease on day 40, accompanied by a decrease in the anterior pituitary content of dopamine. Rise in prolactin release was not significant. In males, tyrosine hydroxylase activity was increased 30 days after birth, while L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid content decreased. On day 40, L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid content increased, paired to a rise in L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid/dopamine ratio and anterior pituitary content of dopamine and to a decrease in the prolactin release. Perinatal exposure to cannabinoids altered the normal development of nigrostriatal, mesolimbic and tuberoinfundibular dopaminergic neurons, as reflected by changes in several indices of their activity. These changes were different regarding the sex and brain areas. Cannabinoid effects were more marked and constant in the striatum of males, while alterations in limbic neurons were mostly transient and those in hypothalamic neurons occurred after drug withdrawal. A long-term impact of these early changes on the neurological processes of adulthood is plausible.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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