Cannabinoid receptor agonists upregulate and enhance serotonin 2A (5-HT2A) receptor activity via ERK1/2 signaling

Jade M. Franklin, Gonzalo A. Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Recent behavioral studies suggest that nonselective agonists of cannabinoid receptors may regulate serotonin 2A (5-HT2A) receptor neurotransmission. Two cannabinoids receptors are found in brain, CB1 and CB2 receptors, but the molecular mechanism by which cannabinoid receptors would regulate 5-HT2A receptor neurotransmission remains unknown. Interestingly, we have recently found that certain cannabinoid receptor agonists can specifically upregulate 5-HT2A receptors. Here, we present experimental evidence that rats treated with a nonselective cannabinoid receptor agonist (CP 55,940, 50 μg/kg, 7 days) showed increases in 5-HT2A receptor protein levels, 5-HT2A receptor mRNA levels, and 5-HT2A receptor-mediated phospholipase C beta (PLCβ) activity in prefrontal cortex (PFCx). Similar effects were found in neuronal cultured cells treated with CP 55,940 but these effects were prevented by selective CB2, but not selective CB1, receptor antagonists. CB2 receptors couple to the extracellular kinase (ERK) signaling pathway by Gαi/o class of G-proteins. Noteworthy, GP 1a (selective CB2 receptor agonist) produced a strong upregulation of 5-HT2A receptor mRNA and protein, an effect that was prevented by selective CB2 receptor antagonists and by an ERK1/2 inhibitor, PD 198306. In summary, our results identified a strong cannabinoid-induced upregulation of 5-HT2A receptor signaling in rat PFCx. Our cultured cell studies suggest that selective CB2 receptor agonists upregulate 5-HT2A receptor signaling by activation of the ERK1/2 signaling pathway. Activity of cortical 5-HT2A receptors has been associated with several physiological functions and neuropsychiatric disorders such as stress response, anxiety and depression, and schizophrenia. Therefore, these results may provide a molecular mechanism by which activation of cannabinoid receptors might be relevant to the pathophysiology of some cognitive and mood disorders in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-159
Number of pages15
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Cannabinoid receptor agonists upregulate and enhance serotonin 2A (5-HT2A) receptor activity via ERK1/2 signaling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this