CB1 cannabinoid receptor-mediated anandamide signalling reduces the defensive behaviour evoked through GABAA receptor blockade in the dorsomedial division of the ventromedial hypothalamus

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The effects of cannabinoids in brain areas expressing cannabinoid receptors, such as hypothalamic nuclei, are not yet well known. Several studies have demonstrated the role of hypothalamic nuclei in the organisation of behavioural responses induced through innate fear and panic attacks. Panic-prone states are experimentally induced in laboratory animals through a reduction in the GABAergic activity. The aim of the present study was to examine panic-like elaborated defensive behaviour evoked by GABAA receptor blockade with bicuculline (BIC) in the dorsomedial division of the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMHdm). We also aimed to characterise the involvement of endocannabinoids and the CB1 cannabinoid receptor in the modulation of elaborated defence behavioural responses organised with the VMHdm. The guide-cannula was stereotaxicaly implanted in VMHdm and the animals were treated with anandamide (AEA) at different doses, and the effective dose was used after the pre-treatment with the CB1 receptor antagonist AM251, followed by GABAA receptor blockade in VMHdm. The results showed that the intra-hypothalamic administration of AEA at an intermediate dose (5 pmol) attenuated defence responses induced through the intra-VMHdm microinjection of bicuculline (40 ng). This effect, however, was inhibited when applied central microinjection of the CB1 receptor antagonist AM251 in the VMHdm. Moreover, AM251 potentiates de non-oriented escape induced by bicuculline, effect blocked by pre-treatment with the TRPV1 channel antagonist 6-I-CPS. These results indicate that AEA modulates the pro-aversive effects of intra-VMHdm-bicuculline treatment, recruiting CB1 cannabinoid receptors and the TRPV1 channel is involved in the AM251-related potentiation of bicuculline effects on non-oriented escape behaviour.

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