Expression of the cannabinoid receptor CB1 in distinct neuronal subpopulations in the adult mouse forebrain


: Dr B. Lutz, as above.


Cannabinoids can modulate motor behaviour, learning and memory, cognition and pain perception. These effects correlate with the expression of the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and with the presence of endogenous cannabinoids in the brain. In trying to obtain further insights into the mechanisms underlying the modulatory effects of cannabinoids, CB1-positive neurons were determined in the murine forebrain at a single cell resolution. We performed a double in situ hybridization study to detect mRNA of CB1 in combination with mRNA of glutamic acid decarboxylase 65k, neuropeptide cholecystokinin (CCK), parvalbumin, calretinin and calbindin D28k, respectively. Our results revealed that CB1-expressing cells can be divided into distinct neuronal subpopulations. There is a clear distinction between neurons containing CB1 mRNA either at high levels or low levels. The majority of high CB1-expressing cells are GABAergic (γ-aminobutyric acid) neurons belonging mainly to the cholecystokinin-positive and parvalbumin-negative type of interneurons (basket cells) and, to a lower extent, to the calbindin D28k-positive mid-proximal dendritic inhibitory interneurons. Only a fraction of low CB1-expressing cells is GABAergic. In the hippocampus, amygdala and entorhinal cortex area, CB1 mRNA is present at low but significant levels in many non-GABAergic cells that can be considered as projecting principal neurons. Thus, a complex mechanism appears to underlie the modulatory effects of cannabinoids. They might act on principal glutamatergic circuits as well as modulate local GABAergic inhibitory circuits. CB1 is very highly coexpressed with CCK. It is known that cannabinoids and CCK often have opposite effects on behaviour and physiology. Therefore, we suggest that a putative cross-talk between cannabinoids and CCK might exist and will be relevant to better understanding of physiology and pharmacology of the cannabinoid system.