The endocannabinoid system promotes astroglial differentiation by acting on neural progenitor cells

J Neurosci. 2006 Feb 1;26(5):1551-61. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3101-05.2006.


Endocannabinoids exert an important neuromodulatory role via presynaptic cannabinoid CB1 receptors and may also participate in the control of neural cell death and survival. The function of the endocannabinoid system has been extensively studied in differentiated neurons, but its potential role in neural progenitor cells remains to be elucidated. Here we show that the CB1 receptor and the endocannabinoid-inactivating enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase are expressed, both in vitro and in vivo, in postnatal radial glia (RC2+ cells) and in adult nestin type I (nestin(+)GFAP+) neural progenitor cells. Cell culture experiments show that CB1 receptor activation increases progenitor proliferation and differentiation into astroglial cells in vitro. In vivo analysis evidences that, in postnatal CB1(-/-) mouse brain, progenitor proliferation and astrogliogenesis are impaired. Likewise, in adult CB1-deficient mice, neural progenitor proliferation is decreased but is increased in fatty acid amide hydrolase-deficient mice. In addition, endocannabinoid signaling controls neural progenitor differentiation in the adult brain by promoting astroglial differentiation of newly born cells. These results show a novel physiological role of endocannabinoids, which constitute a new family of signaling cues involved in the regulation of neural progenitor cell function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amidohydrolases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Amidohydrolases / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Astrocytes / cytology*
  • Benzamides / pharmacology
  • Benzoxazines
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / physiology*
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology
  • Carbamates / pharmacology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Morpholines / pharmacology
  • Naphthalenes / pharmacology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Nestin
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Rats
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / genetics
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / metabolism*
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / physiology*


  • Benzamides
  • Benzoxazines
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Cannabinoids
  • Carbamates
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • Morpholines
  • Naphthalenes
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nes protein, mouse
  • Nes protein, rat
  • Nestin
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • cyclohexyl carbamic acid 3'-carbamoylbiphenyl-3-yl ester
  • (3R)-((2,3-dihydro-5-methyl-3-((4-morpholinyl)methyl)pyrrolo-(1,2,3-de)-1,4-benzoxazin-6-yl)(1-naphthalenyl))methanone
  • Amidohydrolases
  • fatty-acid amide hydrolase