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Neuropharmacology. 2012 Sep;63(4):514-23. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.04.024. Epub 2012 May 8.

CB₂ cannabinoid receptors inhibit synaptic transmission when expressed in cultured autaptic neurons.

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Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Gill Center for Biomolecular Science, Indiana University, 1101 E. 10th Street, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


The role of CB₂ in the central nervous system, particularly in neurons, has generated much controversy. Fueling the controversy are imperfect tools, which have made conclusive identification of CB₂ expressing neurons problematic. Imprecise localization of CB₂ has made it difficult to determine its function in neurons. Here we avoid the localization controversy and directly address the question if CB₂ can modulate neurotransmission. CB₂ was expressed in excitatory hippocampal autaptic neurons obtained from CB₁ null mice. Whole-cell patch clamp recordings were made from these neurons to determine the effects of CB₂ on short-term synaptic plasticity. CB₂ expression restored depolarization induced suppression of excitation to these neurons, which was lost following genetic ablation of CB₁. The endocannabinoid 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG) mimicked the effects of depolarization in CB₂ expressing neurons. Interestingly, ongoing basal production of 2-AG resulted in constitutive activation of CB₂, causing a tonic inhibition of neurotransmission that was relieved by the CB₂ antagonist AM630 or the diacylglycerol lipase inhibitor RHC80267. Through immunocytochemistry and analysis of spontaneous EPSCs, paired pulse ratios and coefficients of variation we determined that CB₂ exerts its function at a presynaptic site of action, likely through inhibition of voltage gated calcium channels. Therefore CB₂ expressed in neurons effectively mimics the actions of CB₁. Thus neuronal CB₂ is well suited to integrate into conventional neuronal endocannabinoid signaling processes, with its specific role determined by its unique and highly inducible expression profile.

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