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Keywords:

  • obesity;
  • hypophagia;
  • phytocannabinoids;
  • Δ9-THCV;
  • AM251;
  • home cage;
  • mice;
  • CB1 receptor

Background and purpose:  Obesity is a severe health problem in the modernized world and understanding the central nervous mechanisms underlying food-seeking behaviour and reward are at the forefront of medical research. Cannabinoid receptors have proven an efficient target to suppress hunger and weight gain by their pharmacological inactivation.

Experimental approach:  A standard fasted protocol and a novel long-term home-cage observation system with free-feeding animals were used to assess the feeding behaviour of mice treated with the CB1 antagonist AM251. Similarly, the effects of the phytocannabinoid Δ9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (Δ9-THCV), which behaves like a CB1 antagonist, were also determined in free-feeding animals.

Key results:  AM251 suppressed food intake and weight gain in fasted and non-fasted animals. The suppression of food intake by AM251 (10 mg·kg−1) endured for a period of 6–8 h when administered acutely, and was continuous when injected for four consecutive days. Pure Δ9-THCV also induced hypophagia and weight reduction at doses as low as 3 mg·kg−1. No rebound was observed on the following day with all drug groups returning to normal activity and feeding regimes. However, a Δ9-THCV-rich cannabis-extract failed to suppress food intake and weight gain, possibly due to residual Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) in the extract. This Δ9-THC effect was overcome by the co-administration of cannabidiol.

Conclusions and implications:  The data strongly suggest (i) the long-term home-cage observation system is a sensitive and obesity-relevant tool, and (ii) the phytocannabinoid Δ9-THCV is a novel compound with hypophagic properties and a potential treatment for obesity.