Roadmap for the expression of canonical and extended endocannabinoid system receptors and metabolic enzymes in peripheral organs of preclinical animal models

The endocannabinoid system is widely expressed throughout the body and is comprised of receptors, ligands, and enzymes that maintain metabolic, immune, and reproductive homeostasis. Increasing interest in the endocannabinoid system has arisen due to these physiologic roles, policy changes leading to more widespread recreational use, and the therapeutic potential of Cannabis and phytocannabinoids. Rodents have been the primary preclinical model of focus due to their relative low cost, short gestational period, genetic manipulation strategies, and gold-standard behavioral tests. However, the potential for lack of clinical translation to non-human primates and humans is high as cross-species comparisons of the endocannabinoid system have not been evaluated. To bridge this gap in knowledge, we evaluate the relative gene expression of 14 canonical and extended endocannabinoid receptors in seven peripheral organs of C57/BL6 mice, Sprague-Dawley rats, and non-human primate rhesus macaques. Notably, we identify species- and organ-specific heterogeneity in endocannabinoid receptor distribution where there is surprisingly limited overlap among the preclinical models. Importantly, we determined there were no receptors with identical expression patterns among mice (three males and two females), rats (six females), and rhesus macaques (four males). Our findings demonstrate a critical, yet previously unappreciated, contributor to challenges of rigor and reproducibility in the cannabinoid field, which has implications in hampering progress in understanding the complexity of the endocannabinoid system and development of cannabinoid-based therapies.


cannabinoids; endocannabinoid system; mice; non-human primate; rat; receptors.

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