Cannabinoid type 2 receptor inhibition enhances the antidepressant and proneurogenic effects of physical exercise after chronic stress


Transl Psychiatry. 2024 Mar 30;14(1):170. doi: 10.1038/s41398-024-02877-0.


Chronic stress is a major risk factor for neuropsychiatric conditions such as depression. Adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) has emerged as a promising target to counteract stress-related disorders given the ability of newborn neurons to facilitate endogenous plasticity. Recent data sheds light on the interaction between cannabinoids and neurotrophic factors underlying the regulation of AHN, with important effects on cognitive plasticity and emotional flexibility. Since physical exercise (PE) is known to enhance neurotrophic factor levels, we hypothesised that PE could engage with cannabinoids to influence AHN and that this would result in beneficial effects under stressful conditions. We therefore investigated the actions of modulating cannabinoid type 2 receptors (CB2R), which are devoid of psychotropic effects, in combination with PE in chronically stressed animals. We found that CB2R inhibition, but not CB2R activation, in combination with PE significantly ameliorated stress-evoked emotional changes and cognitive deficits. Importantly, this combined strategy critically shaped stress-induced changes in AHN dynamics, leading to a significant increase in the rates of cell proliferation and differentiation of newborn neurons, overall reduction in neuroinflammation, and increased hippocampal levels of BDNF. Together, these results show that CB2Rs are crucial regulators of the beneficial effects of PE in countering the effects of chronic stress. Our work emphasises the importance of understanding the mechanisms behind the actions of cannabinoids and PE and provides a framework for future therapeutic strategies to treat stress-related disorders that capitalise on lifestyle interventions complemented with endocannabinoid pharmacomodulation.

PMID:38555299 | PMC:PMC10981758 | DOI:10.1038/s41398-024-02877-0