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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1987 May;241(2):534-9.

Modulation of rat brain opioid receptors by cannabinoids.


The interaction of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta 9-THC) and related cannabinoids with opioid receptors of neuronal membranes has been investigated. Treatment of membranes with delta 9-THC consistently decreased specific in vitro binding of [3H]dihydromorphine (mu opioid) in a dose-dependent fashion. Similar dose-dependent changes were elicited by cannabidiol and (+/-)-hexahydrocannabinol. Equilibrium binding studies in which brain membranes were titrated with [3H]dihydromorphine in the presence of delta 9-THC demonstrated that the decrease in [3H]dihydromorphine binding is due to a reduction in the number of binding sites, with no significant alteration in receptor affinity. This result suggests that the interaction of delta 9-THC with opioid receptors is a noncompetitive one. Delta 9-THC also inhibited the binding of the delta opioid [3H]D-Pen2, D-Pen5-enkephalin and the opioid antagonist [3H]naloxone (Ki = 16 and 19 microM, respectively) but failed to inhibit the binding of the kappa opioid [3H]ethylketocyclazocine (after suppression of mu and delta receptor binding), the phencyclidine analog [3H]N-(1-[2-theinyl]cyclohexyl)piperidine, the dopamine antagonist [3H]spiroperidol or the muscarinic antagonist [3H]quinuclidinyl benzilate. Moreover, delta 9-THC inhibited the binding of [3H]etorphine (potent opioid agonist) to solubilized, partially purified opioid receptors with a Ki value similar to that observed for the membrane-bound receptors. This finding indicates that the allosteric modulation of the opioid receptor by delta 9-THC is the result of a direct interaction with the receptor protein or with a specific protein-lipid complex and not merely the result of a perturbation of the lipid bilayer of the membrane.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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