Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug of abuse in Western society. Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, regulates a variety of neuronal processes including neurotransmitter release and synaptic transmission. An increasing body of evidence suggests that cannabinoids play a key role in the regulation of neuronal viability. In cortical neurons tetrahydrocannabinol has a neurodegenerative effect, the mechanisms of which are poorly understood, but involve the cannabinoid receptor subtype, CB1. In this study we report that tetrahydrocannabinol (5 μM) evokes a rapid phosphorylation, and thus activation, of the tumour suppressor protein, p53, in a manner involving the cannabinoid CB1 receptor, and the stress-activated protein kinase, c-jun N-terminal kinase, in cultured cortical neurons. Tetrahydrocannabinol increased expression of the p53-transcriptional target, Bax and promoted Bcl phosphorylation. These events were abolished by the p53 inhibitor, pifithrin-α (100 nM). The tetrahydrocannabinol-induced activation of the pro-apoptotic cysteine protease, caspase-3, and DNA fragmentation was also blocked by pifithrin-α. A siRNA knockdown of p53 further verified the role of p53 in tetrahydrocannabinol-induced apoptosis. This study demonstrates a novel cannabinoid signalling pathway involving p53 that culminates in neuronal apoptosis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience