Neuroscientists discover previously unknown function of cannabinoid receptor

May 2, 2016, German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases

The cannabinoid type 2 receptor - also called "CB2 receptor" - is a special membrane protein. Its function is to receive chemical signals that control cellular activity. "Until now, this receptor was considered part of the immune system without function in nerve cells. However, our study shows that it also plays an important role in the signal processing of the brain," explains Professor Dietmar Schmitz, Speaker for the DZNE-Site Berlin and Director of the Neuroscience Research Center of the Charité (NWFZ/NeuroCure). Schmitz coordinated the current study, which involved Berlin colleagues and also scientists from the University of Bonn and from the "National Institute on Drug Abuse" of the US.

As the researchers demonstrated in an animal model, the CB2 receptor raises the excitation threshold of in the hippocampus. "Operation of the brain critically depends on the fact that sometimes have an exciting impact on downstream cells and in other cases they have a suppressing effect," says Dr Vanessa Stempel, lead author of the current publication, who is now doing research in Cambridge, UK. "The CB2 receptor works like a set screw by which such communication processes can be adjusted."

Component of the "endocannabinoid system"

The CB2 receptor is part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This family of receptors and signaling substances exists in many organisms including humans. It is a biochemical control system which is involved in the regulation of numerous physiological processes. Its name refers to the fact that chemicals derived from the cannabis plant bind to receptors of the ECS. So far, there are two known types of these receptors: The CB2 receptor has no psychoactive effect. Hence, the mind-altering effects triggered by the consumption of cannabis are ascribed to the "cannabinoid type 1 receptor".

Potential therapeutic applications

The results of the current study could contribute to a better understanding of disease mechanisms and provide a starting point for novel medications. "Brain activity is disturbed in schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer's disease and other neuropsychiatric disorders. Pharmaceuticals that bind to the CB2 receptor could possibly influence the activity of and thus become part of a therapy," Professor Schmitz concludes.

Explore further: 'Marijuana receptor' might hold the key to new fertility treatments for men

More information: A. Vanessa Stempel et al, Cannabinoid Type 2 Receptors Mediate a Cell Type-Specific Plasticity in the Hippocampus, Neuron (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.03.034

Related Stories

'Marijuana receptor' might hold the key to new fertility treatments for men

April 8, 2016
In a research report appearing in the April 2016 issue of The FASEB Journal, scientists show that a cannabinoid receptor, called "CB2," helps regulate the creation of sperm. Not only does this provide more evidence that marijuana ...

An alternative to medical marijuana for pain?

March 4, 2015
Medical marijuana is proliferating across the country due to the ability of cannabis ingestion to treat important clinical problems such as chronic pain. However, negative side effects and the development of tolerance limit ...

Researchers to explore ability of compounds to protect brain against HIV infection

March 28, 2016
Antiretroviral drugs can greatly increase life expectancy for patients infected with HIV, the AIDS-causing virus, but one thing the drugs cannot do is completely eliminate the virus from the body. Hidden away in cells, latent ...

Cannabis-derived drugs to target diabetic kidney failure

November 13, 2015
New substances derived from cannabis are being used to tackle kidney failure caused by diabetes, as part of a new research project led by the University of Aberdeen.

Cannabinoid 2 receptors regulate impulsive behavior

March 8, 2012
A new study lead by the Neuroscience Institute of Alicante reveals how manipulating the endocannabinoid system can modulate high levels of impulsivity. This is the main problem in psychiatric illnesses such a schizophrenia, ...

Cannabis could hold the key to ending multiple sclerosis misery

April 2, 2007
Researchers investigating the role of cannabinoids - chemical substances contained within cannabis – in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), have found they could significantly enhance therapy, not only by reducing ...

Recommended for you

Researchers discover novel subtype of multiple sclerosis

August 21, 2018
Cleveland Clinic researchers have discovered a new subtype of multiple sclerosis (MS), providing a better understanding of the individualized nature of the disease.

Dehydration alters human brain shape and activity, slackens task performance

August 21, 2018
When dehydration strikes, part of the brain can swell, neural signaling can intensify, and doing monotonous tasks can get harder.

'It's all in the eyes': The role of the amygdala in the experience and perception of fear

August 21, 2018
Researchers have long believed that the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure in the brain, is central to the experience and perception of fear. Studies initiated in the 1990s of a patient with a rare condition affecting the ...

Study sheds light on how brain lets animals hunt for food by following smells

August 21, 2018
Most animals have a keen sense of smell, which assists them in everyday tasks. Now, a new study led by researchers at NYU School of Medicine sheds light on exactly how animals follow smells.

Powerful molecules provide new findings about Huntington's disease

August 21, 2018
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have discovered a direct link between the protein aggregation in nerve cells that is typical for neurodegenerative diseases, and the regulation of gene expression in Huntington's disease. ...

Largest brain study of 62,454 scans identifies drivers of brain aging

August 21, 2018
In the largest known brain imaging study, scientists from Amen Clinics (Costa Mesa, CA), Google, John's Hopkins University, University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, San Francisco evaluated 62,454 ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

SusejDog
not rated yet May 04, 2016
CBD in cannabis is a fantastic substance, and its a crime against humanity that its use has been suppressed in favor of the thug cop-judge-prison industrial complex. There is little need to develop synthetic CB receptor ligands considering that many of them have known to be extremely dangerous, and also given that CBD is already known to work well.
SusejDog
not rated yet May 04, 2016
4-O-Methylhonokiol is another natural CB2 ligand which does pass the BBB. See https://en.wikipe...honokiol

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.