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J Neuroendocrinol. 2010 Jun;22(6):585-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.2010.01990.x. Epub 2010 Mar 2.

Direct and indirect effects of cannabinoids on in vitro GABA release in the rat arcuate nucleus.

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Centre for Integrative Physiology, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.


Within the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus, two neuronal subpopulations play particularly important roles in energy balance; neurones expressing neuropeptide Y (NPY), agouti-related peptide (AgRP) and GABA are orexigenic, whereas neurones expressing pro-opiomelanocortin and CART are anorexigenic. The pivotal role of these neuropeptides in energy homeostasis is well-known, although GABA may also be an important signal because targeted knockout of the GABA transporter in NPY/AgRP/GABA neurones results in a lean, obesity-resistant phenotype. In the present study, we describe an in vitro model of K(+)-evoked GABA release from the hypothalamus and determine the effects of cannabinoid receptor activation. K(+)-evoked GABA release was sensitive to leptin, insulin and PYY(3-36), indicating that GABA was released by arcuate NPY/AgRP/GABA neurones. In the presence of tetrodotoxin (TTX), the cannabinoid CB1 receptor agonist WIN 55,212-2 inhibited K(+)-evoked GABA release. This was prevented by the CB1 receptor inverse agonist rimonabant. Rimonabant had no effect when applied alone. In the absence of TTX, however, the opposite effects were observed: WIN 55,212-2 had no effect while rimonabant inhibited GABA release. This indicates that GABA release can involve an indirect, TTX-sensitive mechanism. The most parsimonious explanation for the inhibition of GABA release by a CB receptor inverse agonist is via the disinhibition of an cannabinoid-sensitive inhibitory input onto GABAergic neurones. One local source of an inhibitory neurotransmitter is the opioidergic arcuate neurones. In our in vitro model, K(+)-evoked GABA release was inhibited by the endogenous opioid peptide beta-endorphin in a naloxone-sensitive manner. The inhibitory effect of rimonabant was also prevented by naloxone and a kappa-opioid receptor selective antagonist, suggesting that GABA release from arcuate NPY/AgRP/GABA neurones can be inhibited by endogenous opioid peptides, and that the release of opioid peptides is sensitive to cannabinoids.

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