BDNF impairment in the hippocampus is related to enhanced despair behavior in CB1 knockout mice

J Neurochem. 2008 Apr;105(2):565-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2007.05149.x. Epub 2007 Nov 28.


Stress can cause damage and atrophy of neurons in the hippocampus by deregulating the expression of neurotrophic factors that promote neuronal plasticity. The endocannabinoid system represents a physiological substrate involved in neuroprotection at both cellular and emotional levels. The lack of CB1 receptor alters neuronal plasticity and originates an anxiety-like phenotype in mice. In the present study, CB1 knockout mice exhibited an augmented response to stress revealed by the increased despair behavior and corticosterone levels showed in the tail suspension test and decreased brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels in the hippocampus. Interestingly, local administration of BDNF in the hippocampus reversed the increased despair behavior of CB1 knockout mice, confirming the crucial role played by BDNF on the emotional impairment of these mutants. The neurotrophic deficiency seems to be specific for BDNF as no differences were found in the levels of nerve growth factor and NT-3, two additional neurotrophic factors. Moreover, BDNF impairment is not related to the activity of its specific tyrosine kinase receptor or the activity of the transcription factor cAMP responsive element binding. These results suggest that the lack of CB1 receptor originates an enhanced response to stress and deficiency in neuronal plasticity by decreasing BDNF levels in the hippocampus that lead to impairment in the responses to emotional disturbances.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / administration & dosage
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • CREB-Binding Protein / metabolism
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Freezing Reaction, Cataleptic / physiology*
  • Hindlimb Suspension / methods
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Radioimmunoassay / methods
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / deficiency*
  • Receptor, trkB / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological / drug therapy
  • Stress, Physiological / genetics
  • Stress, Physiological / pathology*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiopathology*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • CREB-Binding Protein
  • Receptor, trkB
  • Corticosterone