AMPK contributes to aerobic exercise-induced antinociception downstream of endocannabinoids

Neuropharmacology. 2017 Sep 15;124:134-142. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2017.05.002. Epub 2017 May 4.


Physical exercise has been repeatedly associated with decreased nociceptive responses but the underlying mechanisms have still not been fully clarified. In this study, we investigated exercise-induced effects after a single bout of treadmill running on the mouse model of formalin-induced inflammatory nociception. As potential molecular mediators, we focused on endogenous endocannabinoids as well as AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). Our results showed that wild type mice display a reduced nociceptive response in the formalin test after treadmill running, while exercise had no effect on inflammatory nociception in AMPKα2 knockout mice. Levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) were increased after physical activity in both wild type and AMPKα2 knockout mice, in association with decreased expression of the AEA-hydrolyzing enzyme FAAH and an increased level of the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1). Accordingly, treatment of wild type mice with the CB1 inverse agonist AM251 prior to the treadmill running reversed exercise-induced antinociception. However, if mice received AM251 in combination with the AMPK activator 5-amino-1-β-d-ribofuranosyl-imidazole-4-carboxamide (AICAR), the positive effect of treadmill running on inflammatory nociception was restored, indicating that AMPK affects exercise-induced antinociception downstream of endocannabinoids. This assumption was further supported by cell culture experiments showing AMPK activation after stimulation of neuronal cells with AEA. In conclusion, our data suggest that AMPK is an intermediate effector in endocannabinoid-mediated exercise-induced antinociception. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled "A New Dawn in Cannabinoid Neurobiology".

Keywords: AMPK; Endocannabinoids; Exercise; Inflammation; Nociception.

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / genetics
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / physiology*
  • Amidohydrolases / metabolism
  • Aminoimidazole Carboxamide / analogs & derivatives
  • Aminoimidazole Carboxamide / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acids / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Nociception / drug effects
  • Nociception / physiology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology*
  • Piperidines / pharmacology
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / metabolism
  • Pyrazoles / pharmacology
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / metabolism
  • Ribonucleotides / pharmacology


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Piperidines
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Pyrazoles
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Ribonucleotides
  • Aminoimidazole Carboxamide
  • AM 251
  • AMPK alpha2 subunit, mouse
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Amidohydrolases
  • fatty-acid amide hydrolase
  • AICA ribonucleotide
  • anandamide