Cannabinoid–dopamine interactions in the physiology and physiopathology of the basal ganglia

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Endocannabinoids and their receptors play a modulatory role in the control of dopamine transmission in the basal ganglia. However, this influence is generally indirect and exerted through the modulation of GABA and glutamate inputs received by nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons, which lack cannabinoid CB1 receptors although they may produce endocannabinoids. Additional evidence suggests that CB2 receptors may be located in nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons, and that certain eicosanoid-related cannabinoids may directly activate TRPV1 receptors, which have been found in nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons, thus allowing in both cases a direct regulation of dopamine transmission by specific cannabinoids. In addition, CB1 receptors form heteromers with dopaminergic receptors which provide another pathway to direct interactions between both systems, in this case at the postsynaptic level. Through these direct mechanisms or through indirect mechanisms involving GABA or glutamate neurons, cannabinoids may interact with dopaminergic transmission in the basal ganglia and this is likely to have important effects on dopamine-related functions in these structures (i.e. control of movement) and, particularly, on different pathologies affecting these processes, in particular, Parkinson's disease, but also dyskinesia, dystonia and other pathological conditions. The present review will address the current literature supporting these cannabinoid–dopamine interactions at the basal ganglia, with emphasis on aspects dealing with the physiopathological consequences of these interactions.


This article is part of a themed section on Updating Neuropathology and Neuropharmacology of Monoaminergic Systems. To view the other articles in this section visit

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