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Keywords:

  • cannabinoid;
  • gastrointestinal motility;
  • radiology;
  • rat;
  • tolerance

Abstract  The use of cannabinoids to treat gastrointestinal (GI) motor disorders has considerable potential. However, it is not clear if tolerance to their actions develops peripherally, as it does centrally. The aim of this study was to examine the chronic effects of the cannabinoid agonist WIN 55,212-2 (WIN) on GI motility, as well as those in the central nervous and cardiovascular systems. WIN was administered for 14 days, at either non-psychoactive or psychoactive doses. Cardiovascular parameters were measured in anaesthetized rats, whereas central effects and alterations in GI motor function were assessed in conscious animals using the cannabinoid tetrad and non-invasive radiographic methods, respectively. Tests were performed after first (acute effects) and last (chronic effects) administration of WIN, and 1 week after discontinuing treatment (residual effects). Food intake and body weight were also recorded throughout treatment. Blood pressure and heart rate remained unchanged after acute or chronic administration of WIN. Central activity and GI motility were acutely depressed at psychoactive doses, whereas non-psychoactive doses only slightly reduced intestinal transit. Most effects were reduced after the last administration. However, delayed gastric emptying was not and could, at least partially, account for a concomitant reduction in food intake and body weight gain. The remaining effects of WIN administration in GI motility were blocked by the CB1 antagonist AM 251, which slightly accelerated motility when administered alone. No residual effects were found 1 week after discontinuing cannabinoid treatment. The different systems show differential sensitivity to cannabinoids and tolerance developed at different rates, with delayed gastric emptying being particularly resistant to attenuation upon chronic treatment.