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CB1 cannabinoid receptor expression in brain regions associated with zebra finch song control
by Soderstrom K, Johnson F


Cannabinoids have been used for millennia through various preparations of Cannabis sativa. Despite this long history of use, the physiological significance of cannabinoid signaling in the vertebrate CNS is not well understood. High CB1 cannabinoid receptor densities in mammalian telencephalon and the results of behavioral studies suggest that cannabinoids play a role in cognitive function, learning, and memory. Since a network of discrete brain regions in zebra finch telencephalon controls song learning, we hypothesized that cannabinoid signaling may be relevant to songbird vocal development and behavior. Radioligand binding experiments using the cannabinoid agonist [3H]CP-55940 allowed identification of a dense population of high-affinity cannabinoid binding sites in zebra finch neuronal membranes. Northern blotting and RT-PCR experiments demonstrated expression of a predominant zebra finch CB1 mRNA of approximately 5.5 kb. Expression of this CB1 mRNA appears to change over the course of vocal development within the caudal telencephalon. As zebra finch caudal telencephalon contains the higher vocal center (HVC) and the robust nucleus of the archistriatum (RA), regions involved in song learning and production, we further investigated CB1 expression in these areas using in situ hybridization. In situ hybridization revealed that CB1 mRNA is expressed at high levels within both HVC and RA. Overall, these data demonstrate the presence of CB1 signaling systems within songbird telencephalon, notably within regions known to be involved in song learning and production. High-level CB1 expression in song regions suggests a potential role for cannabinoid signaling in zebra finch vocal development.

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