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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2013 Aug;38(9):1816-24. doi: 10.1038/npp.2013.81. Epub 2013 Apr 5.

Phencyclidine-induced social withdrawal results from deficient stimulation of cannabinoid CB₁ receptors: implications for schizophrenia.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78229-3900, USA.


The neuronal mechanisms underlying social withdrawal, one of the core negative symptoms of schizophrenia, are not well understood. Recent studies suggest an involvement of the endocannabinoid system in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and, in particular, of negative symptoms. We used biochemical, pharmacological, and behavioral approaches to investigate the role played by the endocannabinoid system in social withdrawal induced by sub-chronic administration of phencyclidine (PCP). Pharmacological enhancement of endocannabinoid levels via systemic administration of URB597, an inhibitor of endocannabinoid degradation, reversed social withdrawal in PCP-treated rats via stimulation of CB1 receptors, but reduced social interaction in control animals through activation of a cannabinoid/vanilloid-sensitive receptor. In addition, the potent CB agonist CP55,940 reversed PCP-induced social withdrawal in a CB₁-dependent manner, whereas pharmacological blockade of CB₁ receptors by either AM251 or SR141716 reduced the time spent in social interaction in control animals. PCP-induced social withdrawal was accompanied by a decrease of anandamide (AEA) levels in the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, and these deficits were reversed by URB597. As CB₁ receptors are predominantly expressed on GABAergic interneurons containing the anxiogenic peptide cholecystokinin (CCK), we also examined whether the PCP-induced social withdrawal resulted from deficient CB₁-mediated modulation of CCK transmission. The selective CCK2 antagonist LY225910 blocked both PCP- and AM251-induced social withdrawal, but not URB597 effect in control rats. Taken together, these findings indicate that AEA-mediated activation of CB₁ receptors is crucial for social interaction, and that PCP-induced social withdrawal results from deficient endocannabinoid transmission.

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