Endocannabinoid-Specific Impairment in Synaptic Plasticity in Striatum of Huntington's Disease Mouse Model

J Neurosci. 2018 Jan 17;38(3):544-554. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1739-17.2017. Epub 2017 Nov 30.


Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited neurodegenerative disease affecting predominantly striatum and cortex that results in motor and cognitive disorders. Before a motor phenotype, animal models of HD show aberrant cortical-striatal glutamate signaling. Here, we tested synaptic plasticity of cortical excitatory synapses onto striatal spiny projection neurons (SPNs) early in the YAC128 mouse model of HD. High-frequency stimulation-induced long-term depression, mediated by the endocannabinoid anandamide and cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1), was significantly attenuated in male and female YAC128 SPNs. Indirect pathway SPNs, which are more vulnerable in HD, were most affected. Our experiments show metabotropic glutamate receptor and endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol-dependent plasticity, as well as direct CB1 activation by agonists, was similar in YAC128 and FVB/N wild-type SPNs suggesting that presynaptic CB1 is functioning normally. These results are consistent with a specific impairment in postsynaptic anandamide synthesis in YAC128 SPN. Strikingly, although suppression of degradation of anandamide was not effective, elevating 2-arachidonoylglycerol levels restored long-term depression in YAC128 striatal neurons. Together, these results have potential implications for neuroprotection and ameliorating early cognitive and motor deficits in HD.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited neurodegenerative disease with no cure. Recent studies find impairment of the endocannabinoid system in animal models but the functional implication for synaptic plasticity in HD remains unclear. Sepers et al. show a selective deficit in synaptic plasticity mediated by the endocannabinoid anandamide, but not 2-arachidonoylglycerol in a mouse model of HD. The deficit is rescued by selectively elevating levels of 2-arachidonoylglycerol produced on-demand. This mechanism could be targeted in the development of future therapeutics for HD.

Keywords: Huntington disease; endocannabinoid; striatum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acids / metabolism*
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism
  • Corpus Striatum / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Glycerides / metabolism*
  • Huntington Disease / metabolism
  • Huntington Disease / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / metabolism*


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Glycerides
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • glyceryl 2-arachidonate
  • anandamide