Open Access Research

Gz mediates the long-lasting desensitization of brain CB1 receptors and is essential for cross-tolerance with morphine

Javier Garzón12, Elena de la Torre-Madrid12, María Rodríguez-Muñoz2, Ana Vicente-Sánchez12 and Pilar Sánchez-Blázquez12*

Author Affiliations

1 Instituto Cajal, CSIC, Dr. Arce 37, 28002 Madrid, Spain

2 Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud Mental, CIBERSAM, ISCIII, Dr. Arce 37, 28002 Madrid, Spain

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Molecular Pain 2009, 5:11  doi:10.1186/1744-8069-5-11

Published: 10 March 2009

Abstract

Background

Although the systemic administration of cannabinoids produces antinociception, their chronic use leads to analgesic tolerance as well as cross-tolerance to morphine. These effects are mediated by cannabinoids binding to peripheral, spinal and supraspinal CB1 and CB2 receptors, making it difficult to determine the relevance of each receptor type to these phenomena. However, in the brain, the CB1 receptors (CB1Rs) are expressed at high levels in neurons, whereas the expression of CB2Rs is marginal. Thus, CB1Rs mediate the effects of smoked cannabis and are also implicated in emotional behaviors. We have analyzed the production of supraspinal analgesia and the development of tolerance at CB1Rs by the direct injection of a series of cannabinoids into the brain. The influence of the activation of CB1Rs on supraspinal analgesia evoked by morphine was also evaluated.

Results

Intracerebroventricular (icv) administration of cannabinoid receptor agonists, WIN55,212-2, ACEA or methanandamide, generated a dose-dependent analgesia. Notably, a single administration of these compounds brought about profound analgesic tolerance that lasted for more than 14 days. This decrease in the effect of cannabinoid receptor agonists was not mediated by depletion of CB1Rs or the loss of regulated G proteins, but, nevertheless, it was accompanied by reduced morphine analgesia. On the other hand, acute morphine administration produced tolerance that lasted only 3 days and did not affect the CB1R. We found that both neural mu-opioid receptors (MORs) and CB1Rs interact with the HINT1-RGSZ module, thereby regulating pertussis toxin-insensitive Gz proteins. In mice with reduced levels of these Gz proteins, the CB1R agonists produced no such desensitization or morphine cross-tolerance. On the other hand, experimental enhancement of Gz signaling enabled an acute icv administration of morphine to produce a long-lasting tolerance at MORs that persisted for more than 2 weeks, and it also impaired the analgesic effects of cannabinoids.

Conclusion

In the brain, cannabinoids can produce analgesic tolerance that is not associated with the loss of surface CB1Rs or their uncoupling from regulated transduction. Neural specific Gz proteins are essential mediators of the analgesic effects of supraspinal CB1R agonists and morphine. These Gz proteins are also responsible for the long-term analgesic tolerance produced by single doses of these agonists, as well as for the cross-tolerance between CB1Rs and MORs.