Cannabinoids inhibit striatonigral GABAergic neurotransmission in the mouse

Neuroscience. 2002;113(3):671-82. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(02)00109-4.


The substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNR) belongs to the brain regions with the highest density of CB(1) cannabinoid receptors. Anatomical studies indicate that the great majority of CB(1) receptors in the SNR are localized on terminals of GABAergic axons arriving from the caudate-putamen (striatonigral axons). The aim of the present experiments was to clarify the role of CB(1) receptors on terminals of striatonigral axons. Oblique sagittal slices, including the caudate-putamen and the substantia nigra, were prepared from brains of young mice. Electrical stimulation in the caudate-putamen elicited GABAergic inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) in the SNR, which were studied by patch-clamp techniques. The long latency of IPSCs (14+/-1 ms) suggests that striatonigral axons were indeed activated within the caudate-putamen. The synthetic CB(1)/CB(2) cannabinoid receptor agonist WIN55212-2 (R(+)-[2,3-dihydro-5-methyl-3-[(morpholinyl)methyl]pyrrolo[1,2,3-de]-1,4-benzoxazin-yl]-(1-naphthalenyl)methanone mesylate; 10(-5) M) decreased the amplitude of IPSCs by 93+/-1%. CP55940 ((-)-cis-3-[2-hydroxy-4-(1,1-dimethylheptyl)phenyl]-trans-4-(3-hydroxypropyl)cyclohexanol; 10(-5) M), another CB(1)/CB(2) receptor agonist, also reduced IPSC amplitude, by 76+/-4%. The CB(1) cannabinoid receptor antagonist SR141716A (N-piperidino-5-(4-chlorophenyl)-1-(2,4-dichlorophenyl)-4-methyl-3-pyrazole-carboxamide; 10(-6) M) prevented the inhibition produced by WIN55212-2 (10(-5) M). Depolarization of SNR neurons led to suppression of IPSCs; this suppression was prevented by SR141716A (10(-6) M). Three observations indicate that the agonists inhibited neurotransmission presynaptically. (1) CP55940 (10(-5) M) enhanced the ratio of amplitudes of two IPSCs which were elicited by two electrical stimuli 100 ms apart (paired pulses). (2) WIN55212-2 (10(-5) M) did not change the amplitude of miniature IPSCs recorded in the presence of tetrodotoxin. (3) WIN55212-2 (10(-5) M) also had no effect on currents elicited in SNR neurons by ejection of the GABA(A) receptor agonist muscimol from a pipet. In summary, we have established a method which allows selective examination of GABAergic neurotransmission between striatonigral axons and SNR neurons. Using this method, the function of CB(1) cannabinoid receptors on terminals of striatonigral axons was unequivocally clarified. Activation of these receptors causes strong presynaptic inhibition of GABAergic neurotransmission between striatonigral axons and SNR neurons. This effect may be one explanation of the catalepsy observed in animals after cannabinoid administration. Endocannabinoids released from SNR neurons can modulate striatonigral neurotransmission by inhibiting GABA release from terminals of striatonigral axons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Neostriatum / drug effects
  • Neostriatum / metabolism*
  • Neostriatum / physiology
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / drug effects
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / agonists
  • Receptors, Drug / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Drug / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Drug / metabolism
  • Substantia Nigra / drug effects
  • Substantia Nigra / metabolism*
  • Substantia Nigra / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / drug effects
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Cannabinoids
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Dopamine