Abstract Title:

The tumour suppressor protein, p53, is involved in the activation of the apoptotic cascade by Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol in cultured cortical neurons.

Abstract Source:

Eur J Pharmacol. 2007 Jun 14;564(1-3):57-65. Epub 2007 Feb 22. PMID: 17379209

Abstract Author(s):

Eric J Downer, Aoife Gowran, Aine C Murphy, Veronica A Campbell

Article Affiliation:

Department of Physiology and Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland.


Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug of abuse in Western society. Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, regulates a variety of neuronal processes including neurotransmitter release and synaptic transmission. An increasing body of evidence suggests that cannabinoids play a key role in the regulation of neuronal viability. In cortical neurons tetrahydrocannabinol has a neurodegenerative effect, the mechanisms of which are poorly understood, but involve the cannabinoid receptor subtype, CB(1). In this study we report that tetrahydrocannabinol (5 muM) evokes a rapid phosphorylation, and thus activation, of the tumour suppressor protein, p53, in a manner involving the cannabinoid CB(1) receptor, and the stress-activated protein kinase, c-jun N-terminal kinase, in cultured cortical neurons. Tetrahydrocannabinol increased expression of the p53-transcriptional target, Bax and promoted Bcl phosphorylation. These events were abolished by the p53 inhibitor, pifithrin-alpha (100 nM). The tetrahydrocannabinol-induced activation of the pro-apoptotic cysteine protease, caspase-3, and DNA fragmentation was also blocked by pifithrin-alpha. A siRNA knockdown of p53 further verified the role of p53 in tetrahydrocannabinol-induced apoptosis. This study demonstrates a novel cannabinoid signalling pathway involving p53 that culminates in neuronal apoptosis.

Study Type : In Vitro Study

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