Cannabinoids Elicit Antidepressant-Like Behavior and Activate Serotonergic Neurons through the Medial Prefrontal Cortex.

Preclinical and clinical studies show that cannabis modulates mood and possesses antidepressant-like properties, mediated by the agonistic activity of cannabinoids on central CB1 receptors (CB1Rs). The action of CB1R agonists on the serotonin (5-HT) system, the major transmitter system involved in mood control and implicated in the mechanism of action of antidepressants, remains however poorly understood. In this study, we demonstrated that, at low doses, the CB1R agonist WIN55,212-2 [R(+)-[2,3-dihydro-5-methyl-3-[(morpholinyl)]pyrrolo[1,2,3-de]-1,4-benzoxazinyl]-(1-naphthalenyl) methanone mesylate] exerts potent antidepressant-like properties in the rat forced-swim test (FST). This effect is CB1R dependent because it was blocked by the CB1R antagonist rimonabant and is 5-HT mediated because it was abolished by pretreatment with the 5-HT-depleting agent parachlorophenylalanine. Then, using in vivo electrophysiology, we showed that low doses of WIN55,212-2 dose dependently enhanced dorsal raphe nucleus 5-HT neuronal activity through a CB1R-dependent mechanism. Conversely, high doses of WIN55,212-2 were ineffective in the FST and decreased 5-HT neuronal activity through a CB1R-independent mechanism. The CB1R agonist-induced enhancement of 5-HT neuronal activity was abolished by total or medial prefrontocortical, but not by lateral prefrontocortical, transection. Furthermore, 5-HT neuronal activity was enhanced by the local microinjection of WIN55,212-2 into the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (mPFCv) but not by the local microinjection of WIN55,212-2 into the lateral prefrontal cortex. Similarly, the microinjection of WIN55,212-2 into the mPFCv produced a CB1R-dependent antidepressant-like effect in the FST. These results demonstrate that CB1R agonists possess antidepressant-like properties and modulate 5-HT neuronal activity via the mPFCv.

1Neurobiological Psychiatry Unit, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada H3A 1A1, and 2Department of Psychiatry, Centre de Recherche Fernand Seguin, Hôpital L.H. Lafontaine, Université de Montréal, Quebec, Canada H1N 3V2

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, Neurobiological Psychiatry Unit, Department of Psychiatry, Research and Training Building, McGill University, 1033 Pine Avenue West, Montréal, Quebec, Canada H3A 1A1. Email: