Regulation of subthalamic neuron activity by endocannabinoids

Synapse. 2010 Sep;64(9):682-98. doi: 10.1002/syn.20778.


High levels of anandamide are located in the basal ganglia. The subthalamic nucleus (STN) is considered to be an important modulator of basal ganglia output. The present study aims at characterizing the modulation of the electrical activity of STN neurons by exogenous anandamide or endocannabinoids. Single-unit extracellular recordings in anesthetized rats and patch-clamp techniques in rat brain slices containing the STN were performed. Immunohistochemical assays were used. In vivo, anandamide administration produced two opposite effects (inhibition or stimulation) on STN neuron firing rates, depending of the precise location of the neuron within the nucleus. These effects were enhanced by prior inhibition of fatty acid amide hydrolase with URB597, but not by the inhibitor of carrier-mediated anandamide transport AM404. Rimonabant, a specific CB(1) receptor antagonist, also produced inhibition or stimulation of STN neuron activity when administered alone or after anandamide. These effects seem to be mediated by indirect mechanisms since: (1) STN neuron activity is not modified by the cannabinoid agonist Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta(9)-THC) in vitro; (2) no depolarization-induced suppression of inhibition phenomena were observed; and (3) CB(1) receptor immunolabeling was not detected in the STN, but was abundant in areas which project efferents to this nucleus. Moreover, chemical lesion of the globus pallidus abolished the stimulatory effect of anandamide and microinfusion of anandamide into the prefrontal cortex led to inhibition of STN neuron activity. The present results show that endocannabinoids exert a tonic control on STN activity via receptors located outside the nucleus. These findings may contribute to enhance our understanding of the role of the endocannabinoid system in motor control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acids / metabolism
  • Arachidonic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Benzamides / pharmacology
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / metabolism
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / pharmacology*
  • Carbamates / pharmacology
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Globus Pallidus / cytology
  • Globus Pallidus / drug effects
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Injections, Intraventricular
  • Male
  • Microinjections
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Piperidines / pharmacology
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / metabolism
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / pharmacology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Pyrazoles / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rimonabant
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / cytology*
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / drug effects*


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Benzamides
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Carbamates
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Piperidines
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Pyrazoles
  • cyclohexyl carbamic acid 3'-carbamoylbiphenyl-3-yl ester
  • Dronabinol
  • Rimonabant
  • anandamide
  • N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)arachidonylamide