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Noradrenergic depletion causes sex specific alterations in the endocannabinoid system in the Murine prefrontal cortex.

  • Urquhart, M A1
  • Ross, J A1
  • Reyes, B A S1
  • Nitikman, M1
  • Thomas, S A2
  • Mackie, K3
  • Van Bockstaele, E J1
  • 1 Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, College of Medicine, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, 19102, USA.
  • 2 Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 19104, USA.
  • 3 Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 47405-2204, USA. , (India)
Published Article
Neurobiology of stress
Publication Date
Feb 01, 2019
DOI: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2019.100164
PMID: 31193575


Brain endocannabinoids (eCB), acting primarily via the cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1r), are involved in the regulation of many physiological processes, including behavioral responses to stress. A significant neural target of eCB action is the stress-responsive norepinephrine (NE) system, whose dysregulation is implicated in myriad psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. Using Western blot analysis, the protein expression levels of a key enzyme in the biosynthesis of the eCB 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), diacylglycerol lipase-α (DGL-α), and two eCB degrading enzymes monoacylglycerol lipase (MGL) and fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) were examined in a mouse model that lacks the NE-synthesizing enzyme, dopamine β-hydroxylase (DβH-knockout, KO) and in rats treated with N-(2-chloroethyl)-N-ethyl-2-bromobenzylamine hydrochloride (DSP-4). In the prefrontal cortex (PFC), DGL-α protein expression was significantly increased in male and female DβH-KO mice (P < 0.05) compared to wild-type (WT) mice. DβH-KO male mice showed significant decreases in FAAH protein expression compared to WT male mice. Consistent with the DβH-KO results, DGL-α protein expression was significantly increased in male DSP-4-treated rats (P < 0.05) when compared to saline-treated controls. MGL and FAAH protein expression levels were significantly increased in male DSP-4 treated rats compared to male saline controls. Finally, we investigated the anatomical distribution of MGL and FAAH in the NE containing axon terminals of the PFC using immunoelectron microscopy. MGL was predominantly within presynaptic terminals while FAAH was localized to postsynaptic sites. These results suggest that the eCB system may be more responsive in males than females under conditions of NE perturbation, thus having potential implications for sex-specific treatment strategies of stress-related psychiatric disorders.

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