Cannabinoids activate the insulin pathway to modulate mobilization of cholesterol in C. elegans

PLoS Genet. 2022 Nov 8;18(11):e1010346. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1010346. eCollection 2022 Nov.


The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans requires exogenous cholesterol to survive and its depletion leads to early developmental arrest. Thus, tight regulation of cholesterol storage and distribution within the organism is critical. Previously, we demonstrated that the endocannabinoid (eCB) 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) plays a key role in C. elegans since it modulates sterol mobilization. However, the mechanism remains unknown. Here we show that mutations in the ocr-2 and osm-9 genes, coding for transient receptors potential V (TRPV) ion channels, dramatically reduce the effect of 2-AG in cholesterol mobilization. Through genetic analysis in combination with the rescue of larval arrest induced by sterol starvation, we found that the insulin/IGF-1signaling (IIS) pathway and UNC-31/CAPS, a calcium-activated regulator of neural dense-core vesicles release, are essential for 2-AG-mediated stimulation of cholesterol mobilization. These findings indicate that 2-AG-dependent cholesterol trafficking requires the release of insulin peptides and signaling through the DAF-2 insulin receptor. These results suggest that 2-AG acts as an endogenous modulator of TRPV signal transduction to control intracellular sterol trafficking through modulation of the IGF-1 signaling pathway.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans* / genetics
  • Cannabinoids*
  • Cholesterol / genetics
  • Insulin
  • Sterols


  • Cannabinoids
  • Cholesterol
  • Sterols
  • Insulin