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Life Sci. 2013 Mar 19;92(8-9):446-52. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2012.08.023. Epub 2012 Aug 24.

Brain regional differences in CB1 receptor adaptation and regulation of transcription.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA.


Cannabinoid CB1 receptors (CB1Rs) are expressed throughout the brain and mediate the central effects of cannabinoids, including Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive constituent of marijuana. Repeated THC administration produces tolerance to cannabinoid-mediated effects, although the magnitude of tolerance varies by effect. Consistent with this observation, CB1R desensitization and downregulation, as well as induction of immediate early genes (IEGs), vary by brain region. Zif268 and c-Fos are induced in the forebrain after acute THC administration. Phosphorylation of the cAMP response-element binding protein (CREB) is increased in a region-specific manner after THC administration. Results differ between acute versus repeated THC injection, and suggest that tolerance to IEG activation might develop in some regions. Repeated THC treatment produces CB1R desensitization and downregulation in the brain, although less adaption occurs in the striatum as compared to regions such as the hippocampus. Repeated THC treatment also induces expression of ΔFosB, a very stable isoform of FosB, in the striatum. Transgenic expression of ∆FosB in the striatum enhances the rewarding effects of several drugs, but its role in THC-mediated effects is not known. The inverse regional relationship between CB1R desensitization and ∆FosB induction suggests that these adaptations might inhibit each other, although this possibility has not been investigated. The differential regional expression of individual IEGs by acute or repeated THC administration suggests that regulation of target genes and effects on CB1R signaling will contribute to the behavioral effects of THC.

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