Modulation of Type-1 and Type-2 cannabinoid receptors by saffron in a rat model of retinal neurodegeneration

Rita Maccarone, Cinzia Rapino, Darin Zerti, Monia Di Tommaso, Natalia Battista, Stefano Di Marco, Silvia Bisti, Mauro Maccarrone

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Experimental studies demonstrated that saffron (Crocus sativus) given as a dietary supplement counteracts the effects of bright continuous light (BCL) exposure in the albino rat retina, preserving both morphology and function and probably acting as a regulator of programmed cell death [1]. The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether the neuroprotective effect of saffron on rat retina exposed to BCL is associated with a modulation of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). To this aim, we used eight experimental groups of Sprague-Dawley rats, of which six were exposed to BCL for 24 hours. Following retinal function evaluation, retinas were quickly removed for biochemical and morphological analyses. Rats were either saffronprefed or intravitreally injected with selective type-1 (CB1) or type-2 (CB2) cannabinoid receptor antagonists before BCL. Prefeeding and intravitreally injections were combined in two experimental groups before BCL. BCL exposure led to enhanced gene and protein expression of retinal CB1 and CB2 without affecting the other ECS elements. This effect of BCL on CB1 and CB2 was reversed by saffron treatment. Selective CB1 and CB2 antagonists reduced photoreceptor death, preserved morphology and visual function of retina, and mitigated the outer nuclear layer (ONL) damage due to BCL. Of interest, CB2-dependent neuroprotection was more pronounced than that conferred by CB1. These data suggest that BCL modulates only distinct ECS elements like CB1 and CB2, and that saffron and cannabinoid receptors could share the same mechanism in order to afford retinal protection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0166827
JournalPLoS One
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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