Terminal type-specific cannabinoid CB1 receptor alterations in patients with schizophrenia: a pilot study


Background:

Individuals with schizophrenia are at elevated genetic risks for comorbid cannabis use, and often experience exacerbations of cognitive and psychotic symptoms when exposed to cannabis. These findings have led a number of investigators to examine cannabinoid CB1 receptor (CB1R) alterations in schizophrenia, though with conflicting results. We recently demonstrated the presence of CB1R in both excitatory and inhibitory boutons in the human prefrontal cortex, with differential levels of the receptor between bouton types. We hypothesized that the differential enrichment of CB1R between bouton types – a factor previously unaccounted for when examining CB1R changes in schizophrenia – may resolve prior discrepant reports and increase our insight into the effects of CB1R alterations on the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.


Methods:

Using co-labeling immunohistochemistry and fluorescent microscopy, we examined total CB1R levels and CB1R levels within excitatory (vGlut1-positive) and inhibitory (vGAT-positive) boutons of prefrontal cortex samples from ten pairs of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia and non-psychiatric comparisons.


Results:

Significantly higher total CB1R levels were found within samples from individuals with schizophrenia. Terminal type-specific analyses identified significantly higher CB1R levels within excitatory boutons in samples from individuals with schizophrenia relative to comparisons. In contrast, CB1R levels within the subset of inhibitory boutons that normally express high CB1R levels (presumptive cholecystokinin neuron boutons) were lower in samples from individuals with schizophrenia relative to comparison samples.


Conclusion:

Given CB1R’s role in suppressing neurotransmission upon activation, these results suggest an overall shift in excitatory and inhibitory balance regulation toward a net reduction of excitatory activity in schizophrenia.

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