The use of cannabis is rapidly expanding worldwide. Thus, innovative studies aimed to identify, understand and potentially reduce cannabis-evoked harms are warranted. Here, we found that Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis, disrupts autophagy selectively in the striatum, a brain area that controls motor behavior, both in vitro and in vivo. Boosting autophagy, either pharmacologically (with temsirolimus) or by dietary intervention (with trehalose), rescued the Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol-induced impairment of motor coordination in mice. The combination of conditional knockout mouse models and viral vector-mediated autophagy-modulating strategies in vivo showed that cannabinoid CB1 receptors located on neurons belonging to the direct (striatonigral) pathway are required for the motor-impairing activity of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol by inhibiting local autophagy. Taken together, these findings identify inhibition of autophagy as an unprecedented mechanistic link between cannabinoids and motor performance, and suggest that activators of autophagy might be considered as potential therapeutic tools to treat specific cannabinoid-evoked behavioral alterations.
Keywords: autophagy; cannabinoid; drug abuse; mTOR; motor behaviour; mouse; neuroscience; striatum.
© 2020, Blázquez et al.