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Life Sci. 1994;54(3):159-70.

Cannabinoid receptors in rat brain areas: sexual differences, fluctuations during estrous cycle and changes after gonadectomy and sex steroid replacement.

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Dept. Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Complutense University, Madrid, Spain.


Cannabinoid effects on brain dopaminergic activity vary as a function of gonadal status. In this work, we examined whether these variations might be due to sex steroid-dependent differences in brain cannabinoid receptors (CNr). Four experiments were done: (i) male versus females; (ii) females at each stage of the ovarian cycle; (iii) estradiol (E2) and/or progesterone (P)-replaced ovariectomized (OVX) females; and (iv) testosterone (T)-replaced orchidectomized males. The density of CNr in the medial basal hypothalamus fluctuated in females during the estrous cycle. The density was higher in diestrus and decreased in estrus. This parameter did not change after ovariectomy and E2 replacement. However, P increased the density of CNr when administered to OVX rats acutely treated with E2, but not administered alone or after chronic E2 treatment. In the striatum, the affinity of CNr was slightly higher in males than females, with no changes in density. Ovariectomy increased the affinity of CNr, which normalized only after administration of acute E2. Interestingly, the high affinity values observed in this area after P alone or combined with E2, corresponded to low densities as compared with intact females. In the limbic forebrain, the affinity for the cannabinoid ligand was also higher in males than females with no changes in density. Affinity was also higher in diestrus and lower in estrus, whereas density was unchanged. Ovariectomy decreased CNr density. A normal situation was found after administration of acute E2 or P alone, whereas chronic E2 markedly increased the density of CNr as compared with both intact and OVX females. Interestingly, this latter increase was prevented by coadministration of P. Orchidectomy did not affect CNr density, but administration of T produced a marked decrease. In the mesencephalon, the density and affinity of CNr was higher in males than females. Administration of P to OVX rats produced opposite effects, increasing the density when administered alone and decreasing it when administered to acute E2-replaced OVX rats. In summary, these results reveal the existence of subtle, sometimes more pronounced, sex dimorphisms, fluctuations along the ovarian cycle and changes after gonadectomy and sex steroid replacement in CNr density and affinity in certain brain areas. This supports the hypothesis of possible sex steroid-dependent differences in the sensitivity of certain neuronal processes to cannabinoid treatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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