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Rubino T. Patrini G. Massi P. Fuzio D. Vigano D. Giagnoni G. Parolaro D.

Institute of Pharmacology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Milan, Italy.

Cannabinoid-precipitated withdrawal: a time-course study of the behavioral aspect and its correlation with cannabinoid receptors and G protein expression.

Journal of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics. 285(2):813-9, 1998 May.

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To characterize the time course of the behavioral and biochemical aspects of the cannabinoid withdrawal syndrome, we injected the cannabinoid antagonist SR141716A (5 mg/kg i.p.) in rats made tolerant to CP-55,940 (0.4 mg/kg i.p., twice daily for 6.5 days), 1, 24 and 96 h after the last CP-55,940 injection. Because the CB1 receptor and G protein alpha subunit are involved in cannabinoid tolerance, we observed their changes throughout the brain during the withdrawal syndrome by use of in situ hybridization. In vehicle-pretreated rats SR141716A per se induced abnormal behavior significantly different from the vehicle group: wet dog shakes, forepaw fluttering and scratching. These signs remained significantly elevated even after the second and third antagonist doses. SR141716A significantly modified the mRNA levels of G alpha s and G alpha i subunits in some brain areas without affecting CB1 receptor and G alpha o expression. These findings led us to conclude that SR141716A may have intrinsic activity. Concerning cannabinoid withdrawal, the first SR141716A injection in tolerant rats resulted in behavioral signs different from those observed with the antagonist alone; this moderate withdrawal syndrome was characterized by turning, chewing and digging. Additional SR141716A doses 24 and 96 h later did not induce a significant abstinence syndrome. In situ hybridization after the first SR141716A injection showed that CB1 receptor and G protein alpha subunits, whose levels were low in tolerance, recovered their basal level of expression. Thus, the general desensitization of the cannabinoid receptor and of the transduction system in tolerance are recovered in abstinent rats and might be part of the molecular mechanisms underlying cannabinoid dependence.

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