Abstract: The lack of intrinsic motivation to engage in, and adhere to, physical exercise has major health consequences. However, the neurobiological bases of exercise motivation are still unknown. This study aimed at examining whether the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is involved in this process. To do so, we developed an operant conditioning paradigm wherein mice unlocked a running wheel with nose pokes. Using pharmacological tools and conditional mutants for cannabinoid type-1 (CB1) receptors, we provide evidence that CB1 receptors located on GABAergic neurons are both necessary and sufficient to positively control running motivation. Conversely, this receptor population proved dispensable for the modulation of running duration per rewarded sequence. Although the ECS mediated the motivation for another reward, namely palatable food, such a regulation was independent from CB1 receptors on GABAergic neurons. In addition, we report that the lack of CB1 receptors on GABAergic neurons decreases the preference for running over palatable food when mice were proposed an exclusive choice between the two rewards. Beyond providing a paradigm that enables motivation processes for exercise to be dissected either singly or in concurrence, this study is the first to our knowledge to identify a neurobiological mechanism that might contribute to sedentary behavior.
Abstract: By priming brain circuits, associations between low-salience stimuli often guide future behavioral choices through a process known as mediated or inferred learning. However, the precise neurobiological mechanisms of these incidental associations are largely unknown. Using sensory preconditioning procedures, we show that type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1R) in hippocampal GABAergic neurons are necessary and sufficient for mediated but not direct learning. Deletion and re-expression of CB1R in hippocampal GABAergic neurons abolishes and rescues mediated learning, respectively. Interestingly, paired presentations of low-salience sensory cues induce a specific protein synthesis-dependent enhancement of hippocampal CB1R expression and facilitate long-term synaptic plasticity at inhibitory synapses. CB1R blockade or chemogenetic manipulations of hippocampal GABAergic neurons upon preconditioning affect incidental associations, as revealed by impaired mediated learning. Thus, CB1R-dependent control of inhibitory hippocampal neurotransmission mediates incidental associations, allowing future associative inference, a fundamental process for everyday life, which is altered in major neuropsychiatric diseases.
Abstract: Bidirectional communication between neurons and astrocytes shapes synaptic plasticity and behavior. D-serine is a necessary co-agonist of synaptic N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs), but the physiological factors regulating its impact on memory processes are scantly known. We show that astroglial CB1 receptors are key determinants of object recognition memory by determining the availability of D-serine at hippocampal synapses. Mutant mice lacking CB1 receptors from astroglial cells (GFAP-CB1-KO) displayed impaired object recognition memory and decreased in vivo and in vitro long-term potentiation (LTP) at CA3-CA1 hippocampal synapses. Activation of CB1 receptors increased intracellular astroglial Ca(2+) levels and extracellular levels of D-serine in hippocampal slices. Accordingly, GFAP-CB1-KO displayed lower occupancy of the co-agonist binding site of synaptic hippocampal NMDARs. Finally, elevation of D-serine levels fully rescued LTP and memory impairments of GFAP-CB1-KO mice. These data reveal a novel mechanism of in vivo astroglial control of memory and synaptic plasticity via the D-serine-dependent control of NMDARs.
Abstract: Astroglial type-1 cannabinoid (CB1 ) receptors are involved in synaptic transmission, plasticity and behavior by interfering with the so-called tripartite synapse formed by pre- and post-synaptic neuronal elements and surrounding astrocyte processes. However, little is known concerning the subcellular distribution of astroglial CB1 receptors. In particular, brain CB1 receptors are mostly localized at cells' plasmalemma, but recent evidence indicates their functional presence in mitochondrial membranes. Whether CB1 receptors are present in astroglial mitochondria has remained unknown. To investigate this issue, we included conditional knock-out mice lacking astroglial CB1 receptor expression specifically in glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-containing astrocytes (GFAP-CB1 -KO mice) and also generated genetic rescue mice to re-express CB1 receptors exclusively in astrocytes (GFAP-CB1 -RS). To better identify astroglial structures by immunoelectron microscopy, global CB1 knock-out (CB1 -KO) mice and wild-type (CB1 -WT) littermates were intra-hippocampally injected with an adeno-associated virus expressing humanized renilla green fluorescent protein (hrGFP) under the control of human GFAP promoter to generate GFAPhrGFP-CB1 -KO and -WT mice, respectively. Furthermore, double immunogold (for CB1 ) and immunoperoxidase (for GFAP or hrGFP) revealed that CB1 receptors are present in astroglial mitochondria from different hippocampal regions of CB1 -WT, GFAP-CB1 -RS and GFAPhrGFP-CB1 -WT mice. Only non-specific gold particles were detected in mouse hippocampi lacking CB1 receptors. Altogether, we demonstrated the existence of a precise molecular architecture of the CB1 receptor in astrocytes that will have to be taken into account in evaluating the functional activity of cannabinergic signaling at the tripartite synapse.
Abstract: Dysregulated adipocyte physiology leads to imbalanced energy storage, obesity, and associated diseases, imposing a costly burden on current health care. Cannabinoid receptor type-1 (CB1) plays a crucial role in controlling energy metabolism through central and peripheral mechanisms. In this work, adipocyte-specific inducible deletion of the CB1 gene (Ati-CB1-KO) was sufficient to protect adult mice from diet-induced obesity and associated metabolic alterations and to reverse the phenotype in already obese mice. Compared with controls, Ati-CB1-KO mice showed decreased body weight, reduced total adiposity, improved insulin sensitivity, enhanced energy expenditure, and fat depot-specific cellular remodeling toward lowered energy storage capacity and browning of white adipocytes. These changes were associated with an increase in alternatively activated macrophages concomitant with enhanced sympathetic tone in adipose tissue. Remarkably, these alterations preceded the appearance of differences in body weight, highlighting the causal relation between the loss of CB1 and the triggering of metabolic reprogramming in adipose tissues. Finally, the lean phenotype of Ati-CB1-KO mice and the increase in alternatively activated macrophages in adipose tissue were also present at thermoneutral conditions. Our data provide compelling evidence for a crosstalk among adipocytes, immune cells, and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), wherein CB1 plays a key regulatory role.
Abstract: The amygdala plays key roles in fear and anxiety. Studies of the amygdala have largely focused on neuronal function and connectivity. Astrocytes functionally interact with neurons, but their role in the amygdala remains largely unknown. We show that astrocytes in the medial subdivision of the central amygdala (CeM) determine the synaptic and behavioral outputs of amygdala circuits. To investigate the role of astrocytes in amygdala-related behavior and identify the underlying synaptic mechanisms, we used exogenous or endogenous signaling to selectively activate CeM astrocytes. Astrocytes depressed excitatory synapses from basolateral amygdala via A1 adenosine receptor activation and enhanced inhibitory synapses from the lateral subdivision of the central amygdala via A2A receptor activation. Furthermore, astrocytic activation decreased the firing rate of CeM neurons and reduced fear expression in a fear-conditioning paradigm. Therefore, we conclude that astrocyte activity determines fear responses by selectively regulating specific synapses, which indicates that animal behavior results from the coordinated activity of neurons and astrocytes.
Abstract: The vast majority of neurons within the striatum are GABAergic medium spiny neurons (MSNs), which receive glutamatergic input from the cortex and thalamus, and form two major efferent pathways: the direct pathway, expressing dopamine D1 receptor (D1R-MSNs), and the indirect pathway, expressing dopamine D2 receptor (D2R-MSNs). While molecular mechanisms of MSN degeneration have been identified in animal models of striatal damage, the molecular factors that dictate a selective vulnerability of D1R-MSNs or D2R-MSNs remain unknown. Here, we combined genetic, chemogenetic, and pharmacological strategies with behavioral and neurochemical analyses, and show that the pool of cannabinoid CB1 receptor (CB1R) located on corticostriatal terminals efficiently safeguards D1R-MSNs, but not D2R-MSNs, from different insults. This cell-specific response relies on the regulation of glutamatergic signaling, and is independent from the CB1R-dependent control of astroglial activity in the striatum. These findings define cortical CB1R as a pivotal synaptic player in dictating a differential vulnerability of D1R-MSNs versus D2R-MSNs, and increase our understanding of the role of coordinated cannabinergic-glutamatergic signaling in establishing corticostriatal circuits and its dysregulation in neurodegenerative diseases.
Abstract: Endocannabinoids (eCBs) are amongst the most ubiquitous signaling molecules in the nervous system. Over the past few decades, observations based on a large volume of work, first examining the pharmacological effects of exogenous cannabinoids, and then the physiological functions of eCBs, have directly challenged long-held and dogmatic views about communication, plasticity and behavior in the Central Nervous System (CNS). The eCBs and their cognate cannabinoid receptors exhibit a number of unique properties that distinguish them from the widely studied classical amino acid transmitters, neuropeptides and catecholamines. Although we now have a loose set of mechanistic rules based on experimental findings, new studies continue to reveal that our understanding of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is continuously evolving and challenging long-held conventions. Here, we will briefly summarize findings on the current canonical view of the 'endocannabinoid system' and will address novel aspects that reveal how a nearly ubiquitous system can determine highly specific functions in the brain. In particular, we will focus on findings that push for an expansion of our ideas around long-held beliefs about eCB signaling that, whilst clearly true, may be contributing to an oversimplified perspective on how cannabinoid signaling at the microscopic level impacts behavior at the macroscopic level.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 01 September 2017. doi:10.1038/npp.2017.206.
Abstract: Several paradigms for rodent models of the cognitive and negative endophenotypes found in schizophrenic patients have been proposed. However, significant efforts are needed in order to study the pathophysiology of schizophrenia-related positive symptoms. Recently, it has been shown that these positive symptoms can be studied in rats by using representation-mediated learning. This learning measure the accuracy of mental representations of reality, also called 'reality testing'. Alterations in 'reality testing' performance can be an indication of an impairment in perception which is a clear hallmark of positive psychotic-like states. Thus, we describe here a mouse task adapted from previous findings based on a sensory preconditioning task. With this task, associations made between different neutral stimuli (e.g., an odor and a taste) and subsequent selective devaluation of one of these stimuli have allowed us to study mental sensory representations. Thus, the interest of this task is that it can be used to model positive psychotic-like states in mice, as recently described.
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Tobacco withdrawal is associated with deficits in cognitive function, including attention, working memory, and episodic memory. Understanding the neurobiological mechanisms involved in these effects is crucial because cognitive deficits during nicotine withdrawal may predict relapse in humans. METHODS: We investigated in mice the role of CB1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1Rs) in memory impairment and spine density changes induced by nicotine withdrawal precipitated by the nicotinic antagonist mecamylamine. Drugs acting on the endocannabinoid system and genetically modified mice were used. RESULTS: Memory impairment during nicotine withdrawal was blocked by the CB1R antagonist rimonabant or the genetic deletion of CB1R in forebrain gamma-aminobutyric acidergic (GABAergic) neurons (GABA-CB1R). An increase of 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), but not anandamide, was observed during nicotine withdrawal. The selective inhibitor of 2-AG biosynthesis O7460 abolished cognitive deficits of nicotine abstinence, whereas the inhibitor of 2-AG enzymatic degradation JZL184 did not produce any effect in cognitive impairment. Moreover, memory impairment was prevented by the selective mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitor temsirolimus and the protein synthesis inhibitor anisomycin. Mature dendritic spines on CA1 pyramidal hippocampal neurons decreased 4 days after the precipitation of nicotine withdrawal, when the cognitive deficits were still present. Indeed, a correlation between memory performance and mature spine density was found. Interestingly, these structural plasticity alterations were normalized in GABA-CB1R conditional knockout mice and after subchronic treatment with rimonabant. CONCLUSIONS: These findings underline the interest of CB1R as a target to improve cognitive performance during early nicotine withdrawal. Cognitive deficits in early abstinence are associated with increased relapse risk.