Pregnenolone blocks cannabinoid-induced acute psychotic-like states in mice

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Abstract

Cannabis-induced acute psychotic-like states (CIAPS) represent a growing health issue, but their underlying neurobiological mechanisms are poorly understood. The use of antipsychotics and benzodiazepines against CIAPS is limited by side effects and/or by their ability to tackle only certain aspects of psychosis. Thus, safer wide-spectrum treatments are currently needed. Although the blockade of cannabinoid type-1 receptor (CB1) had been suggested as a therapeutical means against CIAPS, the use of orthosteric CB1 receptor full antagonists is strongly limited by undesired side effects and low efficacy. The neurosteroid pregnenolone has been recently shown to act as a potent endogenous allosteric signal-specific inhibitor of CB1 receptors. Thus, we tested in mice the potential therapeutic use of pregnenolone against acute psychotic-like effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of cannabis. We found that pregnenolone blocks a wide spectrum of THC-induced endophenotypes typically associated with psychotic-like states, including impairments in cognitive functions, somatosensory gating and social interaction. In order to capture THC-induced positive psychotic-like symptoms (e.g. perceptual delusions), we adapted a behavioral paradigm based on associations between different sensory modalities and selective devaluation, allowing the measurement of mental sensory representations in mice. Acting at hippocampal CB1 receptors, THC impaired the correct processing of mental sensory representations (reality testing) in an antipsychotic- and pregnenolone-sensitive manner. Overall, this work reveals that signal-specific inhibitors mimicking pregnenolone effects can be considered as promising new therapeutic tools to treat CIAPS.

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