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Neuroscience. 2010 Sep 29;170(1):28-41. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.07.004. Epub 2010 Jul 13.

CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptor expression during development and in epileptogenic developmental pathologies.

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Department of (Neuro) Pathology, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Recent data support the involvement of the endocannabinoid signaling in early brain development, as well as a key role of cannabinoid receptors (CBR) in pathological conditions associated with unbalanced neuronal excitability and inflammation. Using immunocytochemistry, we explored the expression and cellular pattern of CBR 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2) during prenatal human cortical development, as well as in focal malformations of cortical development associated with intractable epilepsy (focal cortical dysplasia; cortical tubers in patients with the tuberous sclerosis complex and glioneuronal tumors). Strong CB1 immunoreactivity was detected in the cortical plate in developing human brain from the earliest stages tested (gestational week 9) and it persisted throughout prenatal development. Both cannabinoid receptors were not detected in neural progenitor cells located in the ventricular zone. Only CB1 was expressed in the subventricular zone and in Cajal-Retzius cells in the molecular zone of the developing neocortex. CB2 was detected in cells of the microglia/macrophage lineage during development. In malformations of cortical development, prominent CB1 expression was demonstrated in dysplastic neurons. Both CBR were detected in balloon/giant cells, but CB2 appeared to be more frequently expressed than CB1 in these cell types. Reactive astrocytes were mainly stained with CB1, whereas cells of the microglia/macrophage lineage were stained with CB2. These findings confirm the early expression pattern of cannabinoid receptors in the developing human brain, suggesting a function for CB1 in the early stages of corticogenesis. The expression patterns in malformations of cortical development highlight the role of cannabinoid receptors as mediators of the endocannabinoid signaling and as potential pharmacological targets to modulate neuronal and glial cell function in epileptogenic developmental pathologies.

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