The type 1 cannabinoid receptor is highly expressed in embryonic cortical projection neurons and negatively regulates neurite growth in vitro

Eur J Neurosci. 2008 Nov;28(9):1705-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2008.06484.x.


In the rodent and human embryonic brains, the cerebral cortex and hippocampus transiently express high levels of type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB(1)Rs), at a developmental stage when these areas are composed mainly of glutamatergic neurons. However, the precise cellular and subcellular localization of CB(1)R expression as well as effects of CB(1)R modulation in this cell population remain largely unknown. We report that, starting from embryonic day 12.5, CB(1)Rs are strongly expressed in both reelin-expressing Cajal-Retzius cells and newly differentiated postmitotic glutamatergic neurons of the mouse telencephalon. CB(1)R protein is localized first to somato-dendritic endosomes and at later developmental stages it localizes mostly to developing axons. In young axons, CB(1)Rs are localized both to the axolemma and to large, often multivesicular endosomes. Acute maternal injection of agonist CP-55940 results in the relocation of receptors from axons to somato-dendritic endosomes, indicating the functional competence of embryonic CB(1)Rs. The adult phenotype of CB(1)R expression is established around postnatal day 5. By using pharmacological and mutational modulation of CB(1)R activity in isolated cultured rat hippocampal neurons, we also show that basal activation of CB(1)R acts as a negative regulatory signal for dendritogenesis, dendritic and axonal outgrowth, and branching. Together, the overall negative regulatory role in neurite development suggests that embryonic CB(1)R signaling may participate in the correct establishment of neuronal connectivity and suggests a possible mechanism for the development of reported glutamatergic dysfunction in the offspring following maternal cannabis consumption.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / metabolism
  • Cell Compartmentation / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / embryology*
  • Cyclohexanols / pharmacology
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Endosomes / metabolism
  • Endosomes / ultrastructure
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Growth Cones / metabolism
  • Growth Cones / ultrastructure
  • Growth Inhibitors / genetics
  • Growth Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / embryology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurites / metabolism*
  • Neurites / ultrastructure
  • Neurogenesis / drug effects
  • Neurogenesis / genetics*
  • Rats
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / agonists
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / genetics
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / metabolism*
  • Serine Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*


  • Analgesics
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal
  • Cyclohexanols
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Growth Inhibitors
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Glutamic Acid
  • 3-(2-hydroxy-4-(1,1-dimethylheptyl)phenyl)-4-(3-hydroxypropyl)cyclohexanol
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • reelin protein