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J Psychopharmacol. 2018 Aug;32(8):922-931. doi: 10.1177/0269881118784877. Epub 2018 Jul 3.

Hippocampal mammalian target of rapamycin is implicated in stress-coping behavior induced by cannabidiol in the forced swim test.

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1 Department of Physics and Chemistry, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo, Brazil.
2 Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo, Brazil.
3 Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Applied Neurosciences (NAPNA), University of São Paulo, Brazil.
5 National Institute of Science and Translational Medicine, (INCT), Ribeirão Preto, Brazil.
4 Translational Neuropsychiatry Unit (TNU), Aarhus University, Denmark.



Cannabidiol is a non-psychotomimetic compound with antidepressant-like effects. However, the mechanisms and brain regions involved in cannabidiol effects are not yet completely understood. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor/tropomyosin-receptor kinase B/mammalian target of rapamycin (BDNF-TrkB-mTOR) signaling, especially in limbic structures, seems to play a central role in mediating the effects of antidepressant drugs.


Since it is not yet known if BDNF-TrkB-mTOR signaling in the hippocampus is critical to the antidepressant-like effects of cannabidiol, we investigated the effects produced by cannabidiol (10/30/60 nmol/0.2 µL) micro-injection into the hippocampus of mice submitted to the forced swim test and to the open field test.


Independent groups received intra-hippocampal injections of rapamycin (mTOR inhibitor, 0.2 nmol/0.2 µL) or K252 (Trk antagonist, 0.01 nmol/0.2 µL), before the systemic (10 mg/kg) or hippocampal (10 nmol/0.2µL) injection of cannabidiol, and were submitted to the same tests. BDNF levels were analyzed in the hippocampus of animals treated with cannabidiol (10 mg/kg).


Systemic cannabidiol administration induced antidepressant-like effects and increased BDNF levels in the dorsal hippocampus. Rapamycin, but not K252a, injection into the dorsal hippocampus prevented the antidepressant-like effect induced by systemic cannabidiol treatment (10 mg/kg). Differently, hippocampal administration of cannabidiol (10 nmol/0.2 µL) reduced immobility time, an effect that was blocked by both rapamycin and K252a local microinjection.


Altogether, our data suggest that the hippocampal BDNF-TrkB-mTOR pathway is vital for cannabidiol-induced antidepressant-like effect when the drug is locally administered. However, other brain regions may also be involved in cannabidiol-induced antidepressant effect upon systemic administration.


Cannabidiol; antidepressant; forced swim test; hippocampus; mammalian target of rapamycin signaling; stress


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