Accumulating evidence supports the role of astrocytes in endocannabinoid mediated modulation of neural activity. It has been reported that some astrocytes express the cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1-R), the activation of which is leading to Ca2+ mobilization from internal stores and a consecutive release of glutamate. It has also been documented that astrocytes have the potential to produce the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol, one of the best known CB1-R agonist. However, no relationship between CB1-R activation and 2-arachidonoylglycerol production has ever been demonstrated. Here we show that rat spinal astrocytes co-express CB1-Rs and the 2-arachidonoylglycerol synthesizing enzyme, diacylglycerol lipase-alpha in close vicinity to each other. We also demonstrate that activation of CB1-Rs induces a substantial elevation of intracellular Ca2+ concentration in astrocytes. Finally, we provide evidence that the evoked Ca2+ transients lead to the production of 2-arachidonoylglycerol in cultured astrocytes. The results provide evidence for a novel cannabinoid induced endocannabinoid release mechanism in astrocytes which broadens the bidirectional signaling repertoire between astrocytes and neurons.
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