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Cannabinoid receptor 1 signalling dampens activity and mitochondrial transport in networks of enteric neurones


Pieter Vanden Berghe PhD, Center for Gastroenterological Research, KULeuven, Herestraat 49, Lab 701, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.
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Abstract  Cannabinoid (CB) receptors are expressed in the enteric nervous system (ENS) and CB1 receptor activity slows down motility and delays gastric emptying. This receptor system has become an important target for GI-related drug development such as in obesity treatment. The aim of the study was to investigate how CB1 ligands and antagonists affect ongoing activity in enteric neurone networks, modulate synaptic vesicle cycling and influence mitochondrial transport in nerve processes. Primary cultures of guinea-pig myenteric neurones were loaded with different fluorescent markers: Fluo-4 to measure network activity, FM1-43 to image synaptic vesicles and Mitotracker green to label mitochondria. Synaptic vesicle cluster density was assessed by immunohistochemistry and expression of CB1 receptors was confirmed by RT-PCR. Spontaneous network activity, displayed by both excitatory and inhibitory neurones, was significantly increased by CB1 receptor antagonists (AM-251 and SR141716), abolished by CB1 activation (methanandamide, mAEA) and reduced by two different inhibitors (arachidonylamide serotonin, AA-5HT and URB597) of fatty acid amide hydrolase. Antagonists reduced the number of synaptic vesicles that were recycled during an electrical stimulus. CB1 agonists (mAEA and WIN55,212) reduced and antagonists enhanced the fraction of transported mitochondria in enteric nerve fibres. We found immunohistochemical evidence for an enhancement of synaptophysin-positive release sites with SR141716, while WIN55,212 caused a reduction. The opposite effects of agonists and antagonists suggest that enteric nerve signalling is under the permanent control of CB1 receptor activity. Using inhibitors of the endocannabinoid degrading enzyme, we were able to show there is endogenous production of a CB ligand in the ENS.