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Neuropharmacology. 2011 May;60(6):944-52. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.01.039. Epub 2011 Feb 1.

Cannabinoid receptor activation modifies NMDA receptor mediated release of intracellular calcium: implications for endocannabinoid control of hippocampal neural plasticity.

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Dept. of Physiology & Pharmacology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157, USA.


Chronic activation or inhibition of cannabinoid receptors (CB1) leads to continuous suppression of neuronal plasticity in hippocampus and other brain regions, suggesting that endocannabinoids may have a functional role in synaptic processes that produce state-dependent transient modulation of hippocampal cell activity. In support of this, it has previously been shown in vitro that cannabinoid CB1 receptors modulate second messenger systems in hippocampal neurons that can regulate operation of intracellular processes including receptors which release calcium from intracellular stores. Here we demonstrate in hippocampal slices a similar endocannabinoid action on excitatory glutamatergic synapses via modulation of NMDA-receptor mediated intracellular calcium levels in confocal imaged neurons. Calcium entry through glutamatergic NMDA-mediated ion channels increases intracellular calcium concentrations by modifying release from ryanodine-sensitive channels in endoplasmic reticulum. The studies reported here show that NMDA-elicited increases in Calcium Green fluorescence are enhanced by CB1 receptor antagonists (i.e., Rimonabant), and inhibited by CB1 agonists (i.e., WIN 55,212-2). Suppression of endocannabinoid breakdown by either reuptake inhibition (AM404) or fatty-acid amide hydrolase inhibition (URB597) produced suppression of NMDA-elicited calcium increases comparable to WIN 55,212-2, while enhancement of calcium release provoked by endocannabinoid receptor antagonists (Rimonabant) was shown to depend on the blockade of CB1receptor mediated de-phosphorylation of Ryanodine receptors. Such CB1 receptor modulation of NMDA elicited increases in intracellular calcium may account for the respective disruption and enhancement by CB1 agents of trial-specific hippocampal neuron ensemble firing patterns during performance of a short-term memory task, reported previously from this laboratory.

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