Neuroprotective properties of cannabinoids against oxidative stress: role of the cannabinoid receptor CB1


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr Beat Lutz, Max-Planck-Institute of Psychiatry, Group Molecular Genetics of Behavior, Kraepelinstr. 2–10, D-80804 Munich, Germany. E-mail: lutz@


Neuroprotective effects have been described for many can-nabinoids in several neurotoxicity models. However, the exact mechanisms have not been clearly understood yet. In the present study, antioxidant neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids and the involvement of the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) were analysed in detail employing cell-free biochemical assays and cultured cells. As it was reported for oestrogens that the phenolic group is a lead structure for antioxidant neuroprotective effects, eight compounds were classified into three groups. Group A: phenolic compounds that do not bind to CB1. Group B: non-phenolic compounds that bind to CB1. Group C: phenolic compounds that bind to CB1. In the biochemical assays employed, a requirement of the phenolic lead structure for antioxidant activity was shown. The effects paralleled the protective potential of group A and C compounds against oxidative neuronal cell death using the mouse hippocampal HT22 cell line and rat primary cerebellar cell cultures. To elucidate the role of CB1 in neuroprotection, we established stably transfected HT22 cells containing CB1 and compared the protective potential of cannabinoids with that observed in the control transfected HT22 cell line. Furthermore, oxidative stress experiments were performed in cultured cerebellar granule cells, which were derived either from CB1 knock-out mice or from control wild-type littermates. The results strongly suggest that CB1 is not involved in the cellular antioxidant neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids.