Evaluation of the neuroprotective effect of cannabinoids in a rat model of Parkinson’s disease: importance of antioxidant and cannabinoid receptor-independent properties.
We have recently demonstrated that two plant-derived cannabinoids, Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol (CBD), are neuroprotective in an animal model of Parkinson’s disease (PD), presumably because of their antioxidant properties. To further explore this issue, we examined the neuroprotective effects of a series of cannabinoid-based compounds, with more selectivity for different elements of the cannabinoid signalling system, in rats with unilateral lesions of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons caused by local application of 6-hydroxydopamine. We used the CB1 receptor agonist arachidonyl-2-chloroethylamide (ACEA), the CB2 receptor agonist HU-308, the non-selective agonist WIN55,212-2, and the inhibitors of the endocannabinoid inactivation AM404 and UCM707, all of them administered i.p. Daily administration of ACEA or WIN55,212-2 did not reverse 6-hydroxydopamine-induced dopamine (DA) depletion in the lesioned side, whereas HU-308 produced a small recovery that supports a possible involvement of CB2 but not CB1 receptors. AM404 produced a marked recovery of 6-hydroxydopamine-induced DA depletion and tyrosine hydroxylase deficit in the lesioned side. Possibly, this is caused by the antioxidant properties of AM404, which are derived from the presence of a phenolic group in its structure, rather than by the capability of AM404 to block the endocannabinoid transporter, because UCM707, another transporter inhibitor devoid of antioxidant properties, did not produce the same effect. None of these effects were observed in non-lesioned contralateral structures. We also examined the timing for the effect of CBD to provide neuroprotection in this rat model of PD. We found that CBD, as expected, was able to recover 6-hydroxydopamine-induced DA depletion when it was administered immediately after the lesion, but it failed to do that when the treatment started 1 week later. In addition, the effect of CBD implied an upregulation of mRNA levels for Cu,Zn-superoxide dismutase, a key enzyme in endogenous defenses against oxidative stress.
Our results indicate that those cannabinoids having antioxidant cannabinoid receptor-independent properties provide neuroprotection against the progressive degeneration of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons occurring in PD. In addition, the activation of CB2 (but not CB1) receptors, or other additional mechanisms, might also contribute to some extent to the potential of cannabinoids in this disease.
* Departamento de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular III, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Complutense, 28040-Madrid, Spain.