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Eur J Neurosci. 2010 Jan;31(2):225-37. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.07075.x. Epub 2010 Jan 13.

Cannabinoid CB1 receptor facilitation of substance P release in the rat spinal cord, measured as neurokinin 1 receptor internalization.

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Veteran Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, CA 90073, USA.


The contribution of CB1 receptors in the spinal cord to cannabinoid analgesia is still unclear. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of CB1 receptors on substance P release from primary afferent terminals in the spinal cord. Substance P release was measured as neurokinin 1 (NK1) receptor internalization in lamina I neurons. It was induced in spinal cord slices by dorsal root stimulation and in live rats by a noxious stimulus. In spinal cord slices, the CB1 receptor antagonists AM251, AM281 and rimonabant partially but potently inhibited NK1 receptor internalization induced by electrical stimulation of the dorsal root. This was due to an inhibition of substance P release and not of NK1 receptor internalization itself, because AM251 and AM281 did not inhibit NK1 receptor internalization induced by exogenous substance P. The CB1 receptor agonist ACEA increased NK1 receptor internalization evoked by dorsal root stimulation. The effects of AM251 and ACEA cancelled each other. In vivo, AM251 injected intrathecally decreased NK1 receptor internalization in spinal segments L5 and L6 induced by noxious hind paw clamp. Intrathecal AM251 also produced analgesia to radiant heat stimulation of the paw. The inhibition by AM251 of NK1 receptor internalization was reversed by antagonists of mu-opioid and GABA(B) receptors. This indicates that CB1 receptors facilitate substance P release by inhibiting the release of GABA and opioids next to primary afferent terminals, producing disinhibition. This results in a pronociceptive effect of CB1 receptors in the spinal cord.

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