Background: Cannabinoid 1 receptors are identified in various tissues involved in the internal metabolism including adipose tissue and the endocannabinoid system is claimed to be overactive in the obese state. To study the potential involvement of cannabinoid receptor 1 in the endocannabinoid system over-activity in adipose tissue in the obese state, we investigated the cannabinoid receptor 1 levels in adipose tissue from different fat depots in lean and obese humans.
Materials and methods: The adipose tissue samples were analysed by Western blot and by RT-PCR.
Results: Both the gene expression and the protein of cannabinoid receptor 1 were lower in subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue from obese subjects as compared with lean subjects (P < 0.01 and P = 0.058). Moreover, in lean subjects, the level of cannabinoid receptor 1 was significantly higher in subcutaneous adipose tissue compared with visceral adipose tissue (P < 0.05) for both gene expression and protein. The level of cannabinoid receptor 1 was similar between the two depots in obese subjects. The expression of cannabinoid receptor 1 was higher in subcutaneous gluteal adipose tissue as compared with subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: We found in lean subjects, a robust lower level of cannabinoid receptor 1 in visceral adipose tissue compared with subcutaneous adipose tissue (both RNA and protein levels), but similar levels of cannabinoid receptor 1 between the two depots in obese subjects. Our present findings do not indicate that cannabinoid receptor 1 is directly involved in the endocannabinoid system over-activity in adipose tissue in obesity.