Type-1 (CB1) Cannabinoid Receptor Promotes Neuronal Differentiation and Maturation of Neural Stem Cells

Claudia Compagnucci, Sara Di Siena, Maria Blaire Bustamante, Daniele Di Giacomo, Monia Di Tommaso, Mauro Maccarrone, Paola Grimaldi, Claudio Sette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neural stem cells (NSCs) are self-renewing cells that can differentiate into multiple neural lineages and repopulate regions of the brain after injury. We have investigated the role of endocannabinoids (eCBs), endogenous cues that modulate neuronal functions including neurogenesis, and their receptors CB1 and CB2 in mouse NSCs. Real-time PCR and Western blot analyses indicated that CB1 is present at higher levels than CB2 in NSCs. The eCB anandamide (AEA) or the CB1-specific agonist ACEA enhanced NSC differentiation into neurons, but not astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, whereas the CB2-specific agonist JWH133 was ineffective. Conversely, the effect of AEA was inhibited by CB1, but not CB2, antagonist, corroborating the specificity of the response. CB1 activation also enhanced maturation of neurons, as indicated by morphometric analysis of neurites. CB1 stimulation caused long-term inhibition of the ERK1/2 pathway. Consistently, pharmacological inhibition of the ERK1/2 pathway recapitulated the effects exerted by CB1 activation on neuronal differentiation and maturation. Lastly, gene array profiling showed that CB1 activation augmented the expression of genes involved in neuronal differentiation while decreasing that of stemness genes. These results highlight the role of CB1 in the regulation of NSC fate and suggest that its activation may represent a pro-neuronal differentiation signal.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere54271
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 29 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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