A light and electron microscopic study of the CB1 cannabinoid receptor in primate brain

Neuroscience. 1999;92(4):1177-91. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(99)00025-1.


The immunohistochemical distribution and subcellular localization of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor was determined in the adult monkey using a polyclonal antiserum raised against the amino terminus of the rat CB1 receptor. At the level of light microscopy, our results generally parallel earlier studies investigating CB1 distribution in rodent brain with a few differences. In particular, high levels of receptor were found in the cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, cerebellum. However significant differences were also noted. The most striking differences were high levels of CB1 receptor in the monkey substantia nigra pars compacta, cerebellar Purkinje cells, and the principal cells of the hippocampus, while few receptors were found in the globus pallidus or substantia nigra pars reticulata. In contrast, in a previous study investigating the rat, using the same antibody, the opposite staining pattern was observed. At the electron microscopic level CB1 receptor was restricted to neurons. Here it was found both pre- and postsynaptically, particularly on dendritic spines and axon terminals. The CB1 receptor is widely distributed in higher brain regions in the monkey. While its distribution is similar to that in the rat, there are major differences, some of which may be significant when extrapolating the behavioral effects of cannabinoids observed in rodents to primates (e.g., humans). The ultrastructural localization of the CB1 receptor suggests that it modulates neuronal excitability by both pre- and postsynaptic mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / ultrastructure
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Drug / metabolism*
  • Subcellular Fractions / metabolism
  • Subcellular Fractions / ultrastructure
  • Tissue Fixation


  • Cannabinoids
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug