Involvement of dopamine receptor in the actions of non-psychoactive phytocannabinoids

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2020 Dec 17;533(4):1366-1370. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2020.10.021. Epub 2020 Oct 21.


Nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) exhibited a vigorous swimming behavior in liquid medium. Addition of dopamine inhibited the swimming behavior, causing paralysis in 65% of wild-type nematodes. Interestingly, phytocannabinoids cannabidiol (CBD) or cannabidivarin (CBDV), caused paralysis in 40% of the animals. Knockout of DOP-3, the dopamine D2-like receptor critical for locomotor behavior, eliminated the paralysis induced by dopamine, CBD, and CBDV. In contrast, both CBD and CBDV caused paralysis in animals lacking CAT-2, an enzyme necessary for dopamine synthesis. Co-administration of dopamine with either CBD or CBDV caused paralysis similar to that of either phytocannabinoid treatment alone. These data support the notion that CBD and CBDV act as functional partial agonists on dopamine D2-like receptors in vivo. The discovery that dopamine receptor is involved in the actions of phytocannabinoids moves a significant step toward our understanding of the mechanisms for medical uses of cannabis in the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Keywords: C. elegans; Cannabidiol; Cannabidivarin; Phytocannabinoid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / drug effects*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cannabidiol / pharmacology*
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dopamine / pharmacology
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases / genetics
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Paralysis / chemically induced
  • Psychotropic Drugs / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / metabolism*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Cannabinoids
  • DOP-3 protein, C elegans
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • cat-2 protein, C elegans
  • Cannabidiol
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases
  • cannabidivarin
  • Dopamine