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The role of limbic norepinephrine in cannabinoid-induced aversion.

Carvalho AF, Reyes AS, Van Bockstaele EJ (2009) The role of limbic norepinephrine in cannabinoid-induced aversion. Neuroscience 2009 Abstracts 449.3/V29. Society for Neuroscience, Chicago, IL.

Summary: The endocannabinoid system has been implicated in diverse physiological mechanisms including modulation of pain and analgesia, learning and memory and feeding, among others. Thus, targeting the cannabinoid system has risen to the forefront in the development of novel treatments for a number of pathophysiological processes. Consistent with this, agonists of the cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1R) have been successfully used in the treatment of severe anorexia in patients with AIDS and in alleviating nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy. However, significant side effects have been observed in clinical trials raising concerns regarding the potential clinical utility of cannabinoid-based agents. Disturbances in mood and affect, including paranoia, anxiety and nervousness, have been reported in patients. Understanding the neural circuits and neurochemical substrates impacted by cannabinoids will provide a better means of gauging their actions within the central nervous system that contribute to the expression of unwanted side effects. We have previously shown an increase in anxiety-like behaviors in rats receiving repeated administration of cannabinoid agonists. This increase in anxiety was accompanied by increases in indices of noradrenergic activity. In the present study, we investigated whether norepinephrine in the limbic forebrain of rats is required for cannabinoid-induced aversion using an immunotoxin lesion approach combined with behavioral analysis using a place conditioning paradigm. Male Sprague Dawley rats received bilateral injections of a ribosomal toxin, saporin (SAP) conjugated to an antibody that specifically recognizes the enzyme dopamine-beta-hydroxylase (DSAP), into the limbic forebrain. Control rats received saporin alone. As previously reported, administration of the synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist, WIN 55,212-2 (3.0mg/kg), induced aversion in a place conditioning paradigm in SAP-only treated rats. The rats’ spatial memory was also evaluated using the Morris Water Maze. Depletion of norepinephrine using DSAP in specific limbic regions impaired cannabinoid-induced aversion to WIN 55,212-2 without affecting learning and memory processes. Taken together, noradrenergic projections to the limbic forebrain may be critical in the manifestation of aversive behaviors associated with cannabinoid agonist exposure.

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