Type 2 cannabinoid receptor contributes to the physiological regulation of spermatogenesis

Daniele Di Giacomo, Emanuela De Domenico, Claudio Sette, Raffaele Geremia, Paola Grimaldi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Type 2 cannabinoid receptor (CB2) has been proposed to play a pivotal role in meiotic entry of male germcells, similar to retinoic acid (RA). In this study, we showed that activation of CB2 with the specific agonist JWH133 [3-(1′,1′-dimethylbutyl)-1-deoxy-8-THC] (IC50 10-6 M) mimics epigenetic events induced by RA (IC50 10-7 M) in spermatogonia. Both JWH133 and RA treatments stimulate the expression of the meiotic genes c-Kit and Stra8, by up-regulating H3K4me3 and down-regulating H3K9me2 levels in genomic regions flanking the transcription start site. Moreover, both agents increase the expression of Prdm9, the gene encoding a meiosis-specific histone, H3K4me3 methyltransferase, which marks hotspots of recombination in prophase I, thus resulting in a global increase in H3K4me3. Notably, prolonged administration of JWH133 to immature 7 dpp CD-1 mice induced an acceleration of the onset of spermatogenesis, whereas the specific CB2 antagonist delayed germ cell differentiation. Thus, both hyper- and hypostimulation of CB2 disrupted the temporal dynamics of the spermatogenic cycle. These findings highlight the importance of proper CB2 signaling for the maintenance of a correct temporal progression of spermatogenesis and suggest a possible adverse effect of cannabis in deregulating this process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1453-1463
Number of pages11
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Dec 15 2015


  • Endocannabinoid system
  • Histone methylation
  • Meiosis
  • Retinoic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology


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