DEC 03, 2018 09:31 AM PST

Endocannabinoids Are So Promiscuous

WRITTEN BY: Amy Loriaux

When we think about the endocannabinoid system (ECS) (the body's system of neurotransmitters, receptors, and enzymes that are highjacked by the chemicals in cannabis) we tend to think about four pieces of it: the neurotransmitters (NTs) anandamide and 2-AG and the receptors CB1 and CB2. Out-dated neuroscience theories posited that one neuron sends one NT and one NT can bind only to one receptor. While this may be (putatively) true for many NTs, like dopamine and serotonin, some NTs can interact with receptors outside of their "class". Also, some receptors can be activated by several different NTs. In scientific parlance, we called this "promiscuity" And guess what? It turns out that our ECS can be pretty promiscuous indeed!

Photo Source: Pixabay.com

Students in Neuroscience 101 are taught the "lock and key" relationship between NTs and their receptors. Well, imagine you have a skeleton key. That is what neuroscientists are starting to discover about our ECS; endocannabinoids are capable of not only activating CB1/2 but many other receptors as well. The implications for these interactions are just now starting to emerge. Let me introduce to you some of these "promiscuous" molecules busy soliciting in our ECS.

Transient receptor potential vanilloid (TRPV1) is a receptor that is activated by several NTs including anandamide. TRPV1 is promiscuous. Among its ligands are ECs and THC. TRPV1 activation in the spinal cord appears to regulate pain. There is a high degree of colocalization of CB1 and TRPV1 receptors on the cellular membrane. EC activity at this receptor could play a role in analgesia (pain reduction). GPR55 is another promiscuous receptor that is also involved in pain signaling. Synthetic ECs such as rimonabant and O-1602 bind to GPR55 and decrease neuropathic pain in rodents. While it is unknown whether ECs bind to GPR55, the fact that synthetic ECs are able to suggest that they may. 

Photo Source: Pixabay.com

ECs themselves are also capable of binding to receptors other than the "classic" CB1/2 receptors. Gamma-butyric acid (GABA) is the main inhibitory NT in the brain. The EC 2-AG can bind to GABA-A receptors to inhibit GABA release. Another receptor for an affinity for endocannabinoids is glycine. Glycine is similar to GABA but located mainly in the spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system. The phytocannabinoid THC has been shown to bind to glycine and potentiate their firing rate. This binding to the glycine receptor could mediate THC's analgesic effects from within the spinal cord.

This promiscuity is actually a good thing. It gives scientists more possible targets to treat various ailments, such as neuropathic pain. Not only do these findings provide novel clinical treatments, but it helps us to better understand this complex and dynamic system within us known as the ECS.

Sources: www.leafly.com, LabRoots.com, British Journal of Pharmacology, Neuroscience, Vol 2, www.khanacademy.org, Pain, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRPVMolecular Pain, Life Sciences, Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, Nature Chemical Biology

 

 

About the Author
  • I currently work at a small CRO involved in clinical trial management.
You May Also Like
OCT 13, 2019
Cannabis Sciences
OCT 13, 2019
The Use of Cannabis in Treating Fibromyalgia
It has been found that 90% of patients that are diagnosed with fibromyalgia are women, and only a decade ago doctors thought this condition wasn't real...
OCT 13, 2019
Cannabis Sciences
OCT 13, 2019
Marijuana Science: Who Should We Listen To?
As the US government has started to loosen its attitude towards cannabis, the field of cannabis research has become to blossom. A recent search on "ma...
OCT 13, 2019
Cannabis Sciences
OCT 13, 2019
Marijuana: The Next Big Thing in Health Care?
According to Barrons, an online and print news outlet, marijuana is getting a second look by clinicians, pharmaceuticals, and consumers. In a piece wr...
OCT 13, 2019
Health & Medicine
OCT 13, 2019
Formation of Habitual Cannabis Use Drives Addiction
According to a new study in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, published by Elsevier, shifting from brain systems controlling...
OCT 13, 2019
Health & Medicine
OCT 13, 2019
Is Marijuana Harmful to Pets?
Dorrie Black works at Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services, a 24-hour veterinary clinic near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. She says she oft...
OCT 13, 2019
Health & Medicine
OCT 13, 2019
Cancer and Cannabis: A Good Match?
Recently cannabis and cancer treatment have gone hand and hand. Medical marijuana is becoming increasingly popular amongst cancer patients as they see posi...
Loading Comments...