To date, two cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, have been cloned. The CB1 receptor has been found in a variety of tissues, particularly in the brain. CB2 receptor mRNA is mainly expressed in the immune system, though one group has found it in mouse cerebellum. Previous immunostaining studies in our lab demonstrated the presence of CB1 receptors in the retina though little evidence exists for the presence of CB2. The putative endogenous ligand for CB2 has been found in retina, however, suggesting that further study of CB2 in retina is warranted. Because glutamate is toxic to retinal ganglion cells in glaucoma and activation of CB2 receptors may be able to protect neurons from glutamate-induced death, we examined the expression of CB2 mRNA in adult rat retina in order to better understand possible neuroprotective mechanisms relevant to glaucoma. Using in situ hybridization, we demonstrated that CB2 cannabinoid receptor messenger RNA was clearly expressed in the adult rat retina, including the somas of retinal ganglion cells. Antisense cRNA probe detected strong signals in the retinal ganglion cell layer, the inner nuclear layer, and the inner segments of photoreceptor cells. Using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) in both rat and mouse tissue, we obtained an RT-PCR product with the same sequence as that reported for CB2 in the GenBank database, thus confirming the presence of CB2 mRNA in retina. The presence of CB2 in retina provides new evidence for the presence of CB2 in the central nervous system (CNS) and an excellent model for its study.
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