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Keywords:

  • cannabinoid receptors;
  • Huntington's disease;
  • basal ganglia;
  • neurodegeneration;
  • neuroprotection

Abstract

The neuroprotective potential of cannabinoids has been examined in rats with striatal lesions caused by 3-nitropropionic acic (3NP), an inhibitor of mitochondrial complex II. We used the CB1 agonist arachidonyl-2-chloroethylamide (ACEA), the CB2 agonist HU-308, and cannabidiol (CBD), an antioxidant phytocannabinoid with negligible affinity for cannabinoid receptors. The administration of 3NP reduced GABA contents and also mRNA levels for several markers of striatal GABAergic projection neurons, including proenkephalin (PENK), substance P (SP) and neuronal-specific enolase (NSE). We also found reductions in mRNA levels for superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD-1) and -2 (SOD-2), which indicated that 3NP reduced the endogenous antioxidant defences. The administration of CBD, but not ACEA or HU-308, completely reversed 3NP-induced reductions in GABA contents and mRNA levels for SP, NSE and SOD-2, and partially attenuated those found in SOD-1 and PENK. This indicates that CBD is neuroprotective but acted preferentially on striatal neurons that project to the substantia nigra. The effects of CBD were not reversed by the CB1 receptor antagonist SR141716. The same happened with the TRPV1 receptor antagonist capsazepine, in concordance with the observation that capsaicin, a TRPV1 receptor agonist, failed to reproduce the CBD effects. The effects of CBD were also independent of adenosine signalling as they were not attenuated by the adenosine A2A receptor antagonist MSX-3. In summary, this study demonstrates that CBD provides neuroprotection against 3NP-induced striatal damage, which may be relevant for Huntington's disease, a disorder characterized by the preferential loss of striatal projection neurons. This capability seems to be based exclusively on the antioxidant properties of CBD.