A Basal Tone of 2-Arachidonoylglycerol Contributes to Early Oligodendrocyte Progenitor Proliferation by Activating Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinase (PI3K)/AKT and the Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (MTOR) Pathways

J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2015 Jun;10(2):309-17. doi: 10.1007/s11481-015-9609-x. Epub 2015 Apr 22.


A basal tone of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) enhances late oligodendrocyte progenitor cell (OPC) differentiation. Here, we investigated whether endogenous 2-AG may also promote OPC proliferation in earlier stages. We found that the blockade of 2-AG synthesizing enzymes, sn-1-diacylglycerol lipases α and β (DAGLs), with RHC-80267 or the antagonism of either CB1 or CB2 cannabinoid receptors with AM281 and AM630, respectively, impaired early OPC proliferation stimulated by platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF-AA) and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF). On the contrary, increasing the levels of endogenous 2-AG by blocking the degradative enzyme monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) with JZL-184, significantly increased OPC proliferation as did agonists of cannabinoid receptor CB1 (ACEA), CB2 (JWH133) or both (HU-210). To elucidate signaling pathways underlying OPC proliferation, we studied the involvement of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt and its downstream target mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). We show that phosphorylation of Akt and mTOR is required for OPC proliferation stimulated by growth factors (PDGF-AA and bFGF) or by CB1/CB2 agonists (ACEA/JWH133), since it was strongly decreased after LY294002 or rapamycin treatment. In line with this, blockade of CB1 (AM281), CB2 (AM630) or DAGLs (RHC-80267), decreased phosphorylation of Akt, mTOR and 4E-BP1, diminished cyclin E-cdk2 complex association and increased p27(kip1) levels. Our data suggest that proliferation of early OPCs stimulated by PDGF-AA and bFGF depends on the tonic activation of cannabinoid receptors by endogenous 2-AG and provide further evidence on the role of endocannabinoids in oligodendrocyte development, being important for the maintenance and self-renewal of the OPCs. The results highlight the therapeutic potential of the endocannabinoid signaling in the emerging field of brain repair.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists / pharmacology
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endocannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Glycerides / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Oligodendroglia / drug effects
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Glycerides
  • glyceryl 2-arachidonate
  • MTOR protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases