Cannabidiol exerts protective effects in an in vitro model of Parkinson's disease activating AKT/mTOR pathway

Fitoterapia. 2020 Jun;143:104553. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2020.104553. Epub 2020 Mar 14.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the degeneration of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic pathway with loss of substantia nigra pars compacta neurons and dopamine depletion. Various natural compounds showed protective actions against PD. In this work, the protective effects of cannabidiol (CBD), obtained from Cannabis sativa, were evaluated in retinoic acid differentiated SH-SY5Y cells exposed to 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP+), an in vitro PD model. In order to evaluate which receptor is involved in CBD actions CB1, CB2 and TRPV1 receptor antagonists were used. CBD counteracted the loss of cell viability caused by MPP+, reducing apoptosis as demonstrated by the reduction of Bax and caspase 3. Moreover, CBD reduced the nuclear levels of PARP-1. The protective effects of CBD seem to be mediated by the activation of ERK and AKT/mTOR pathways. The treatment with AKT1/2 inhibitor and the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin abolished CBD protective effects. The CBD-induced ERK activation may be mediated by CBD interaction with CB2 and TRPV1. We also investigated the protein levels of the autophagic proteins LC3 and beclin 1. CBD reduced the MPP+-induced increase of LC3 by CB2 and TRPV1 receptors. These data suggested the involvement of ERK in the modulation of autophagy. However, beclin 1 levels were not modified neither by MPP+ nor by CBD. These results indicated that CBD may exert preventive and protective actions in PD.

Keywords: AKT; Cannabidiol; Differentiated SH-SY5Y; ERK; In vitro Parkinson's disease; mTOR.

MeSH terms

  • 1-Methyl-4-phenylpyridinium
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cannabidiol / pharmacology*
  • Cannabis / chemistry
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy*
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Phytochemicals
  • Cannabidiol
  • MTOR protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • 1-Methyl-4-phenylpyridinium