CB1 cannabinoid receptors are enriched in the perisynaptic annulus and on preterminal segments of hippocampal GABAergic axons

G. Nyíri, C. Cserép, E. Szabadits, K. Mackie, T. F. Freund

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92 Citations (Scopus)


Cannabinoids have been shown to modulate the inhibitory effect of cholecystokinin-containing GABAergic interneurons in the hippocampus via type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1 receptor). Although immunohistochemical studies, using pre-embedding techniques, have demonstrated that these receptors are abundant on GABAergic axon terminals, little is known about their exact location relative to the synapse. Here we used two recently developed antibodies against the CB1 receptor to study this question with the postembedding immunogold method, which allows the quantitative examination of receptor distribution along the axonal membrane, even within the synaptic active zone. CB1 receptor positive terminals target both the dendritic and somatic surface of neurons in the CA1 area of the rat hippocampus. We found no difference between these two populations of terminals either in their CB 1 receptor density or in the distribution of receptors on their membrane. Recent studies suggest that endocannabinoids play a role in retrograde signaling at these synapses, i.e. signaling molecules diffuse from the postsynaptic membrane to nearby presynaptic terminals. Therefore, we examined the distribution of CB1 receptors on the terminal membranes. We found that they are rare in the synaptic active zone, but are enriched in the perisynaptic annulus, where they can directly influence synaptic calcium channels. Perisynaptic CB1 receptors represent about one tenth of all CB1 receptors in a terminal. In contrast, CB1 receptors have a lower density on the extrasynaptic membrane of terminals far from the postsynaptic cell. We estimated that these terminals contain exceptionally large numbers of CB1 receptors, i.e. a single axon terminal was usually labeled with more than 450 particles. An unexpected finding was that the density of CB1 receptors was significantly higher on preterminal axons than on synaptic terminals. These observations suggest that endocannabinoid signaling may subserve roles other than simply reducing transmitter release from axon terminals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-822
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 19 2005



  • CA1 area
  • Electron microscopy
  • Interneuron
  • Postembedding immunogold
  • Presynaptic receptor
  • Quantitative analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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