Marijuana is a widely abused illicit drug known to cause significant cognitive impairments. Marijuana has been hypothesized to target neurons in the hippocampus because of the abundance of cannabinoid receptors present in this structure. While there is no clear evidence of neuropathology in vivo, suppression of brain mitogenesis, and ultimately neurogenesis, may provide a sensitive index of marijuana's more subtle effects on neural mechanisms subserving cognitive functions. We examined the effects of different doses and treatment regimens of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient in marijuana, on cell proliferation in the dentate gyrus of adult male mice. Following drug treatment, the thymidine analog 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU; 200 mg/kg, i.p.) was administered two hours prior to sacrifice to assess cell proliferation, the first step in neurogenesis. Administration of THC produced dose-dependent catalepsy and suppression of motor activity. The number of BrdU-labeled cells was not significantly changed from vehicle control levels following either acute (1, 3, 10, 30 mg/kg, i.p.), sequential (two injections of 10 or 30 mg/kg, i.p., separated by 5 h), or chronic escalating (20 to 80 mg/kg, p.o.; for 3 weeks) drug administration. Furthermore, acute administration of the potent synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist R-(+)-WIN 55,212-2 (WIN; 5 mg/kg, i.p.) also had no significant effect on cell proliferation. These findings provide no evidence for an effect of THC on hippocampal cell proliferation, even at doses producing gross behavioral intoxication. Whether marijuana or THC affects neurogenesis remains to be explored.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Clinical Neurology
- Developmental Biology