Pharmacogenetic trial of a cannabinoid agonist shows reduced fasting colonic motility in patients with nonconstipated irritable bowel syndrome

Gastroenterology. 2011 Nov;141(5):1638-47.e1-7. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2011.07.036. Epub 2011 Jul 29.


Background & aims: Cannabinoid receptors are located on cholinergic neurons. Genetic variants that affect endocannabinoid metabolism are associated with colonic transit in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with diarrhea. We compared the effects of dronabinol, a nonselective agonist of the cannabinoid receptor, with those of placebo on colonic motility and sensation in patients with IBS, and examined the effects of IBS subtype and specific genetic variants in cannabinoid mechanisms.

Methods: Seventy-five individuals with IBS (35 with IBS with constipation, 35 with IBS with diarrhea, and with 5 IBS alternating) were randomly assigned to groups that were given 1 dose of placebo or 2.5 mg or 5.0 mg dronabinol. We assessed left colonic compliance, motility index (MI), tone, and sensation during fasting and after a meal. We analyzed the single nucleotide polymorphisms CNR1 rs806378, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) rs324420, and MGLL rs4881.

Results: In all patients, dronabinol decreased fasting proximal left colonic MI compared with placebo (overall P = .05; for 5 mg dronabinol, P = .046), decreased fasting distal left colonic MI (overall P = .08; for 5 mg, P = .13), and increased colonic compliance (P = .058). The effects of dronabinol were greatest in patients with IBS with diarrhea or IBS alternating (proximal colonic MI, overall P = .022; compliance, overall P = .03). Dronabinol did not alter sensation or tone. CNR1 rs806378 (CC vs CT/TT) appeared to affect fasting proximal MI in all patients with IBS (P = .075). Dronabinol affected fasting distal MI in patients, regardless of FAAH rs324420 variant (CA/AA vs CC) (P = .046); the greatest effects were observed among IBS with constipation patients with the FAAH CC variant (P = .045). Dronabinol affected fasting proximal MI in patients with IBS with diarrhea or alternating with the variant FAAH CA/AA (P = .013).

Conclusions: In patients with IBS with diarrhea or alternating, dronabinol reduces fasting colonic motility; FAAH and CNR1 variants could influence the effects of this drug on colonic motility.

Trial registration: NCT01253408.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amidohydrolases / genetics
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases / genetics
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists*
  • Colon / drug effects
  • Colon / physiopathology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2C9
  • Diarrhea / drug therapy
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Diarrhea / physiopathology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology*
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use
  • Fasting / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance
  • Pharmacogenetics
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / genetics
  • Young Adult


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Dronabinol
  • CYP2C9 protein, human
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2C9
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases
  • Amidohydrolases
  • fatty-acid amide hydrolase

Associated data