A new mechanism for cannabidiol in regulating the one-carbon cycle and methionine levels in Dictyostelium and in mammalian epilepsy models

Br J Pharmacol. 2020 Feb;177(4):912-928. doi: 10.1111/bph.14892. Epub 2020 Jan 3.


Background and purpose: Epidiolex™, a form of highly purified cannabidiol (CBD) derived from Cannabis plants, has demonstrated seizure control activity in patients with Dravet syndrome, without a fully elucidated mechanism of action. We have employed an unbiased approach to investigate this mechanism at a cellular level.

Experimental approach: We use a tractable biomedical model organism, Dictyostelium, to identify a protein controlling the effect of CBD and characterize this mechanism. We then translate these results to a Dravet syndrome mouse model and an acute in vitro seizure model.

Key results: CBD activity is partially dependent upon the mitochondrial glycine cleavage system component, GcvH1 in Dictyostelium, orthologous to the human glycine cleavage system component H protein, which is functionally linked to folate one-carbon metabolism (FOCM). Analysis of FOCM components identified a mechanism for CBD in directly inhibiting methionine synthesis. Analysis of brain tissue from a Dravet syndrome mouse model also showed drastically altered levels of one-carbon components including methionine, and an in vitro rat seizure model showed an elevated level of methionine that is attenuated following CBD treatment.

Conclusions and implications: Our results suggest a novel mechanism for CBD in the regulating methionine levels and identify altered one-carbon metabolism in Dravet syndrome and seizure activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't