Requirement of cannabinoid receptor type 1 for the basal modulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function

Endocrinology. 2007 Apr;148(4):1574-81. doi: 10.1210/en.2005-1649. Epub 2006 Dec 28.


The endocannabinoid system affects the neuroendocrine regulation of hormone secretion, including the activity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. However, the mechanisms by which endocannabinoids regulate HPA axis function have remained unclear. Here we demonstrate that mice lacking cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1-/-) display a significant dysregulation of the HPA axis. Although circadian HPA axis responsiveness is preserved, CB1-/- mice are characterized by an enhanced circadian drive on the HPA axis, resulting in elevated plasma corticosterone concentrations at the onset of the dark as compared with wild-type (CB1+/+) littermates. Moreover, CB1-/--derived pituitary cells respond with a significantly higher ACTH secretion to CRH and forskolin challenges as compared with pituitary cells derived from CB1+/+ mice. Both CBL-/- and CB1+/+ mice properly respond to a high-dose dexamethasone test, but response to low-dose dexamethasone is influenced by genotype. In addition, CB1-/- mice show increased CRH mRNA levels in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus but not in other extrahypothalamic areas, such as the amygdala and piriform cortex, in which CB1 and CRH mRNA have been colocalized. Finally, CB1-/- mice have selective glucocorticoid receptor mRNA down-regulation in the CA1 region of the hippocampus but not in the dentate gyrus or paraventricular nucleus. Conversely, mineralocorticoid receptor mRNA expression levels were found unchanged in these brain areas. In conclusion, our findings indicate that CB1 deficiency enhances the circadian HPA axis activity peak and leads to central impairment of glucocorticoid feedback, thus further outlining the essential role of the endocannabinoid system in the modulation of neuroendocrine functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Female
  • Growth Hormone / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / genetics
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / physiology*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Growth Hormone
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone