Inhibitory effects of cannabidiol on voltage-dependent sodium currents

J Biol Chem. 2018 Oct 26;293(43):16546-16558. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA118.004929. Epub 2018 Sep 14.


Cannabis sativa contains many related compounds known as phytocannabinoids. The main psychoactive and nonpsychoactive compounds are Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), respectively. Much of the evidence for clinical efficacy of CBD-mediated antiepileptic effects has been from case reports or smaller surveys. The mechanisms for CBD's anticonvulsant effects are unclear and likely involve noncannabinoid receptor pathways. CBD is reported to modulate several ion channels, including sodium channels (Nav). Evaluating the therapeutic mechanisms and safety of CBD demands a richer understanding of its interactions with central nervous system targets. Here, we used voltage-clamp electrophysiology of HEK-293 cells and iPSC neurons to characterize the effects of CBD on Nav channels. Our results show that CBD inhibits hNav1.1-1.7 currents, with an IC50 of 1.9-3.8 μm, suggesting that this inhibition could occur at therapeutically relevant concentrations. A steep Hill slope of ∼3 suggested multiple interactions of CBD with Nav channels. CBD exhibited resting-state blockade, became more potent at depolarized potentials, and also slowed recovery from inactivation, supporting the idea that CBD binding preferentially stabilizes inactivated Nav channel states. We also found that CBD inhibits other voltage-dependent currents from diverse channels, including bacterial homomeric Nav channel (NaChBac) and voltage-gated potassium channel subunit Kv2.1. Lastly, the CBD block of Nav was temperature-dependent, with potency increasing at lower temperatures. We conclude that CBD's mode of action likely involves 1) compound partitioning in lipid membranes, which alters membrane fluidity affecting gating, and 2) undetermined direct interactions with sodium and potassium channels, whose combined effects are loss of channel excitability.

Keywords: Kv2.1; cannabidiol; cannabinoid; central nervous system (CNS); electrophysiology; epilepsy; neuron; phytocannabinoid; sodium channel; voltage-gated sodium channel.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cannabidiol / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • NAV1.1 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / chemistry*
  • NAV1.1 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / genetics
  • NAV1.1 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / metabolism
  • NAV1.6 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / chemistry*
  • NAV1.6 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / genetics
  • NAV1.6 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / metabolism
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Sodium / metabolism
  • Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel beta-1 Subunit / chemistry*
  • Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel beta-1 Subunit / genetics
  • Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel beta-1 Subunit / metabolism


  • NAV1.1 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel
  • NAV1.6 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel
  • SCN1A protein, human
  • SCN1B protein, human
  • SCN8A protein, human
  • Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel beta-1 Subunit
  • Cannabidiol
  • Sodium