mu opioid and CB1 cannabinoid receptor interactions: reciprocal inhibition of receptor signaling and neuritogenesis

Br J Pharmacol. 2006 Jun;148(4):387-95. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjp.0706757. Epub 2006 May 8.


Several studies have described functional interactions between opioid and cannabinoid receptors; the underlying mechanism(s) have not been well explored. One possible mechanism is direct receptor-receptor interactions, as has been demonstrated for a number of G-protein-coupled receptors. In order to investigate interactions between opioid and cannabinoid receptors, we epitope tagged mu, delta and kappa opioid receptors with Renilla luciferase and CB1 cannabinoid or CCR5 chemokine receptors with yellow fluorescent protein and examined the extent of substrate hydrolysis induced bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) signal. We find that coexpression of opioid receptors with cannabinoid receptors, but not with chemokine receptors, leads to a significant increase in the level of BRET signal, suggesting that the opioid-cannabinoid interactions are receptor specific. In order to examine the implications of these interactions to signaling, we used GTPgammaS binding and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) phosphorylation assays and examined the effect of receptor activation on signaling. We find that the mu receptor-mediated signaling is attenuated by the CB1 receptor agonist; this effect is reciprocal and is seen in heterologous cells and endogenous tissue expressing both receptors. In order to explore the physiological consequences of this interaction, we examined the effect of receptor activation on the extent of Src and STAT3 phosphorylation and neuritogenesis in Neuro-2A cells. We find that the simultaneous activation of mu opioid and CB1 cannabinoid receptors leads to a significant attenuation of the response seen upon activation of individual receptors, implicating a role for receptor-receptor interactions in modulating neuritogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Enkephalin, Ala(2)-MePhe(4)-Gly(5)- / pharmacology
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Guanosine 5'-O-(3-Thiotriphosphate) / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neurites / physiology*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / physiology*
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu
  • Enkephalin, Ala(2)-MePhe(4)-Gly(5)-
  • Guanosine 5'-O-(3-Thiotriphosphate)
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases