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  • The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, Volume 17, Issue 12
  • December 2014, pp. 1943-1955

The calcium-sensitive Sigma-1 receptor prevents cannabinoids from provoking glutamate NMDA receptor hypofunction: implications in antinociception and psychotic diseases

  • Pilar Sánchez-Blázquez (a1), María Rodríguez-Muñoz (a1), Raquel Herrero-Labrador (a1), Javier Burgueño (a2), Daniel Zamanillo (a2) and Javier Garzón (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 31 January 2014

Through the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1), the endocannabinoid system plays a physiological role in maintaining the activity of glutamate N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor within harmless limits. The influence of cannabinoids must be proportional to the stimulus in order to prevent NMDAR overactivation or exaggerated hypofunction that may precipitate symptoms of psychosis. In this framework, the recently reported association of CB1s with NMDARs, which mediates the reduction of cannabinoid analgesia promoted by NMDAR antagonism, could also support the precipitation of schizophrenia brought about by the abuse of smoked cannabis, mostly among vulnerable individuals. Accordingly, we have investigated this possibility using neuroprotection and analgesia as reporters of the CB1–NMDAR connection. We found that the Sigma 1 receptor (σ1R) acts as a safety switch, releasing NMDARs from the influence of CB1s and thereby avoiding glutamate hypofunction. In σ1R−/− mice the activity of NMDARs increases and cannot be regulated by cannabinoids, and NMDAR antagonism produces no effect on cannabinoid analgesia. In wild-type mice, ligands of the σ1R did not affect the CB1-NMDAR regulatory association, however, experimental NMDAR hypofunction enabled σ1R antagonists to release NMDARs from the negative control of CB1s. Of the σ1R antagonists tested, their order of activity was: S1RA > BD1047 ≫ NE100 = BD1063, although SKF10047, PRE-084 and (+)pentazocine were inactive yet able to abolish the effect of S1RA in this paradigm. Thus, the σ1R controls the extent of CB1-NMDAR interaction and its failure might constitute a vulnerability factor for cannabis abuse, potentially precipitating schizophrenia that might otherwise be induced later in time by the endogenous system.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: J. Garzón, Instituto Cajal, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Doctor Arce 37, 28002 Madrid, Spain. Tel.: 34 915854733Fax: 34 915854754Email:
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