While evidence implicates the endogenous cannabinoid system as a novel analgesic target at a spinal level, detailed analysis of the distribution of the cannabinoid receptor CB(1) in spinal cord has not been reported. Here, immunocytochemical studies were used to characterize the CB(1) receptor expression in rat spinal cord. Staining was found in the dorsolateral funiculus, the superficial dorsal horn (a double band of CB(1) immunoreactivity (ir) in laminae I and II inner/III transition), and lamina X. Although CB(1)-ir was present in the same laminae as primary afferent nociceptor markers, there was limited colocalization at an axonal level. Interruption of both primary afferent input by dorsal root rhizotomy and descending input by rostral spinal cord hemisection produced minor changes in CB(1)-ir. This and colocalization of CB(1)-ir with interneurons expressing protein kinase C subunit gamma-ir suggest that the majority of CB(1) expression is on spinal interneurons. These data provide a framework and implicate novel analgesic mechanisms for spinal actions of cannabinoids at the CB(1) receptor.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.