Constitutive endocytic cycle of the CB1 cannabinoid receptor

J Biol Chem. 2004 Aug 20;279(34):36013-21. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M403990200. Epub 2004 Jun 21.


The CB1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1R) displays a significant level of ligand-independent (i.e. constitutive) activity, either when heterologously expressed in nonneuronal cells or in neurons where CB1Rs are endogenous. The present study investigates the consequences of constitutive activity on the intracellular trafficking of CB1R. When transfected in HEK-293 cells, CB1R is present at the plasma membrane, but a substantial proportion ( approximately 85%) of receptors is localized in intracellular vesicles. Detailed analysis of CB1-EGFP expressed in HEK-293 cells shows that the intracellular CB1R population is mostly of endocytic origin and that treatment with inverse agonist AM281 traps CB1R at the plasma membrane through a monensin-sensitive recycling pathway. Co-transfection with dominant positive or dominant negative mutants of the small GTPases Rab5 and Rab4, but not Rab11, profoundly modifies the steady-state and ligand-induced intracellular distribution of CB1R, indicating that constitutive endocytosis is Rab5-dependent, whereas constitutive recycling is mediated by Rab4. In conclusion, our results indicate that, due to its natural constitutive activity, CB1R permanently and constitutively cycles between plasma membrane and endosomes, leading to a predominantly intracellular localization at steady state.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Endosomes / metabolism
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Membranes / metabolism
  • Protein Transport
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / physiology*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • enhanced green fluorescent protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins