Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an incapacitating syndrome that follows a traumatic experience. Predator exposure promotes long-lasting anxiogenic effect in rodents, an effect related to symptoms found in PTSD patients. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychotomimetic component of Cannabis sativa with anxiolytic effects. The present study investigated the anti-anxiety actions of CBD administration in a model of PTSD. Male Wistar rats exposed to a predator (cat) received, 1 h later, singled or repeated i.p. administration of vehicle or CBD. Seven days after the stress animals were submitted to the elevated plus maze. To investigate the involvement of 5HT1A receptors in CBD effects animals were pre-treated with WAY100635, a 5HT1A receptor antagonist. To explore possible neurobiological mechanisms involved in these effects, 5HT1A receptor mRNA and BDNF protein expression were measured in the hippocampus, frontal cortex, amygdaloid complex and dorsal periaqueductal gray. Repeated administration of CBD prevented long-lasting anxiogenic effects promoted by a single predator exposure. Pretreatment with WAY100635 attenuated CBD effects. Seven days after predator exposure 5HT1A mRNA expression was up regulated in the frontal cortex and hippocampus. CBD and paroxetine failed to prevent this effect. No change in BDNF expression was found. In conclusion, predator exposure promotes long-lasting up-regulation of 5HT1A receptor gene expression in the hippocampus and frontal cortex. Repeated CBD administration prevents the long-lasting anxiogenic effects observed after predator exposure probably by facilitating 5HT1A receptors neurotransmission. Our results suggest that CBD has beneficial potential for PTSD treatment and that 5HT1A receptors could be a therapeutic target in this disorder.
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