OCT 20, 2016 2:05 PM PDT

Insight Into the Structure of Marijuana's Cannabinoid Receptor

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

A new publication in Cell has revealed the three-dimensional structure of the cannabinoid receptor, which is responsible for the “high” of marijuana intake. The work shows how the tetrahydrocannabinol molecule, THC, binds to cannabinoid receptor 1, a structure found mostly on nerve cells of the central and peripheral nervous system. The researchers note in their report that while marijuana primarily has a history of recreational use, it also shows promise in the treatment of pain management, substance abuse disorders, inflammation, and obesity. This work could also help disentangle the recreational high from the medicinal effects to establish a firm foundation for medical therapies. The research is outlined in the video below.
 


"With marijuana becoming more popular with legislation in the United States, we need to understand how molecules like THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) and the synthetic cannabinoids interact with the receptor, especially since we're starting to see people show up in emergency rooms when they use synthetic cannabinoids," explained study co-author Raymond Stevens. Stevens is a Professor at the iHuman Institute, ShanghaiTech University and Provost Professor of Biological Science and Chemistry at the University of Southern California.

"Researchers are fascinated by how you can make changes in THC or synthetic cannabinoids and have such different effects," continued Stevens. "Now that we finally have the structure of CB1, we can start to understand how these changes to the drug structure can affect the receptor."
 

 

A model of the CB1 receptor shows the structure of the receptor in green, along with the stabilizing molecule AM6538 in the central binding pocket. The researchers used this model to examine how different cannabinoid molecules bind to and activate the receptor. / Credit: Yekaterina Kadyshevskaya, Stevens Laboratory, USC
 


One cannabis-based drug developed as a treatment for obesity was removed from the market after it was shown that it could cause unintended side effects like depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. Additionally, there is concern about side effects from synthetic cannabinoids, popularly known as Spice or K2. Those drugs are intended as a substitute for marijuana and were meant to produce a similar high. Promoted as a ‘safe’ alternative to pot, they have instead resulted in thousands of trips to the emergency room, especially for young males, according to the NIH. The drugs have produced symptoms such as elevated blood pressure, vomiting, racing heartbeat, seizures, as well as hallucinations.

"We need to understand how marijuana works in our bodies; it can have both therapeutic potential and recreational use, but cannabinoids can also be very dangerous," commented the co-leader of the study, iHuman Institute Professor Zhi-jie Liu. "By doing both the basic science and understanding how this receptor works, we can then use it to help people in the future."

Sources: Eurekalert!/AAAS via Cell Press, NIH, Cell 

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUL 20, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
How Does Cannabis Impact Memory?
JUL 20, 2020
How Does Cannabis Impact Memory?
How exactly cannabis affects our memory- and for how long, and how significantly- is still a subject for debate. With an ...
JUL 26, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Medicinal Cannabis Kills Cancer Cells
JUL 26, 2020
Medicinal Cannabis Kills Cancer Cells
Researchers at the University of Newcastle have found that a modified version of medicinal cannabis can kill and inhibit ...
JUL 29, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
CBD Tablets Help People Quit Cannabis
JUL 29, 2020
CBD Tablets Help People Quit Cannabis
Cannabis use disorder is essentially cannabis addiction. Although research suggests that it affects 9% of peop ...
SEP 10, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Legalizing Cannabis Does Not Lead to Teenage Substance Abuse
SEP 10, 2020
Legalizing Cannabis Does Not Lead to Teenage Substance Abuse
Some say that decriminalizing cannabis may lead to an uptick in young people abusing the substance. Countering this fear ...
SEP 15, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Cannabis Blood Tests Unreliable for Testing Intoxication
SEP 15, 2020
Cannabis Blood Tests Unreliable for Testing Intoxication
Researchers from the University of British Columbia have found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compoun ...
OCT 29, 2020
Health & Medicine
Endocannabinoids Block Pathogenic Bacteria That Cause Gut Ailments in Mouse Study
OCT 29, 2020
Endocannabinoids Block Pathogenic Bacteria That Cause Gut Ailments in Mouse Study
Cannabis users have long reported, anecdotally, that the drug can ease gastrointestinal woes, including irritable bowel ...
Loading Comments...