Chronic exposure to Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) induces tolerance to cannabinoid-induced locomotor effects, which are mediated by cannabinoid receptors (CB1Rs) located in motor control regions, including the cerebellum. There is substantial evidence of cerebellar CB1R molecular adaptation and modifications in receptor signaling after prolonged cannabinoid exposure. However, very little is known about the effects of chronic cannabinoid administration on cerebellar synaptic plasticity, which may contribute to the development of cannabinoid behavioral tolerance. In the cerebellar cortex, activation of CB1R inhibits excitatory synaptic transmission at parallel fiber (PF)-Purkinje cell (PC) synapses by decreasing neurotransmitter release. Our study aimed to investigate the neurophysiological adaptive responses occurring at cerebellar PF-PC cell synapses after repeated THC exposure. In THC-tolerant mice, an increase of the basal release probability was found at PF-PC synapses, in parallel with a facilitation of slow mGluR1 (metabotropic glutamate receptor type 1)-mediated excitatory postsynaptic currents and a reduced sensitivity to the inhibitory effects of the CB1R agonist CP55,940 [(-)-cis-3-[2-hydroxy-4-(1,1-dimethylheptyl)phenyl]-trans-4-(3-hydroxypropyl)cyclohexanol]. Additionally, after repeated THC exposures, presynaptic PF-PC long-term potentiation was blocked by A1R (adenosine receptor-1) activation. Inhibition of the extracellular signal regulated kinase (ERK) pathway prevented these alterations of cerebellar synaptic transmission and plasticity. In summary, we provide evidence for ERK-dependent modulatory mechanisms at PF-PC synapses after chronic THC administration. This contributes to generation of forms of pathological synaptic plasticity that might play a role in cannabinoid dependence.
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