Tonic Endocannabinoid Levels Modulate Retinal Signaling


“The endocannabinoid (eCB) system is critically involved in the modulation of synaptic transmission in the central nervous system, playing an important role in the control of emotional responses, neurodevelopment and synaptic plasticity among other functions. The eCB system is also present in the retina, with studies indicating changes in function after application of cannabinoid receptor agonists, antagonists and in knockout models. Whether eCBs are tonically released in the retina and their physiological functions is, however, still unknown. We investigated the role of the eCB system in the modulation of response strength of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) to light stimulation, their receptive field organization, contrast sensitivity and excitability properties by performing whole-cell patch-clamp recordings in mouse RGCs before and after bath application of URB597, an inhibitor of the enzyme that degrades the eCB anandamide. Our results show that URB597 application leads to a reduction in the strength of synaptic inputs onto RGCs but paradoxically increases RGC excitability. In addition, URB597 was shown to modulate receptive field organization and contrast sensitivity of RGCs. We conclude that tonically released eCBs modulate retinal signaling by acting on traditional cannabinoid receptors (CB1R/CB2R) as well as on non-cannabinoid receptor targets. Thus, a thorough understanding of the effects of drugs that alter the endogenous cannabinoid levels and of exogenous cannabinoids is necessary to fully comprehend the impact of their medical as well as recreational use on vision.”

The Effects of Cannabidiol on Aqueous Humor Outflow and Trabecular Meshwork Cell Signaling


“Intraocular pressure (IOP) is regulated primarily through aqueous humor production by ciliary body and drainage through uveoscleral and trabecular meshwork (TM) tissues. The goal of this study was to measure the effect of non-psychotropic cannabidiol (CBD) on aqueous humor outflow through TM and assess the effect of CBD on the TM cell signaling pathways that are important for regulating outflow. Perfused porcine eye anterior segment explants were used to investigate the effects of CBD on aqueous humor outflow. Cultured porcine TM cells were used to study the effects of CBD on TM cell contractility, myosin light chain (MLC) and myosin phosphatase targeting subunit 1 (MYPT1) phosphorylation, and RhoA activation. In the anterior segment perfusion experiments, aqueous humor outflow was increased significantly within 1 h after adding 1 µM CBD and the effect was sustained over the 5 h of measurement. Treatment of TM cells with 1 µM CBD significantly decreased TM cell-mediated collagen contraction, inhibited phosphorylation of MLC and MYPT1, and reduced RhoA activation. Our data demonstrate, for the first time, that as a potential therapeutic agent for lowering intraocular pressure, CBD can enhance aqueous humor outflow and modify TM cell signaling.”

“In summary, in this study we discovered, for the first time, that at 1 μM concentration CBD increases aqueous humor outflow in perfused anterior segments. In addition, using cultured TM cells, we demonstrated that CBD at 1 μM concentration inhibits TM cell contractility, MLC phosphorylation, MYPT1 phosphorylation and RhoA activation. Overall, our data support the concept that by altering the Rho/Rho kinase signaling to MLC, CBD was able to decrease the contractility of TM cells and enhance aqueous humor outflow via the TM route. There are many IOP-lowering drugs available to reduce aqueous humor production, but there are only limited drugs available to increase aqueous humor outflow directly through the TM route. This study demonstrated that as a potential therapeutic agent for lowering IOP, CBD is able to modify TM cell signaling and enhance aqueous humor outflow, which is often blocked in glaucoma.”

Cannabinol modulates neuroprotection and intraocular pressure: A potential multi-target therapeutic intervention for glaucoma

Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Molecular Basis of Disease

“Objectives: Glaucoma is characterized by progressive damage of the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), resulting in irreversible vision loss. Cannabinoids (CBs) ameliorate several factors that contribute to the progression of glaucoma, including increased intraocular pressure (IOP), degeneration of RGC and optical nerve (ON) damage. However, a direct correlation of specific CBs with the molecular events pertaining to glaucoma pathology is not well established. Therefore, this study aims to evaluate the role of cannabinol (CBN) on RGC protection, modulation of IOP, and its effects on the level of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins using both in vitro and in vivo models of glaucoma.

Methods and results: When exposed to elevated hydrostatic pressure, CBN, in a dose-dependent manner, protected differentiated mouse 661W retinal ganglion precursor-like cells from pressure-induced toxicity. In human trabecular meshwork cells (hTM), CBN attenuated changes in the ECM proteins, including fibronectin and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), as well as mitogen-activated protein kinases (phospho-ERK1/2) in the presence or absence of transforming growth factor-beta 2 (TGF-β2) induced stress. Ocular pharmacokinetic parameters were evaluated post-intravitreal (IVT) CBN delivery in vivo. Furthermore, we demonstrated that IVT-administered CBN improved pattern electroretinogram (pERG) amplitudes and reduced IOP in a rat episcleral vein laser photocoagulation model of glaucoma.

Conclusion: CBN promotes neuroprotection, abrogates changes in ECM protein, and normalizes the IOP levels in the eye. Therefore, our observations in the present study indicate a therapeutic potential for CBN in the treatment of glaucoma.”

“These results suggest CBN as a potential therapeutic intervention for patients with glaucoma.”

Neuroprotection of retinal ganglion cells in vivo using the activation of the endogenous cannabinoid signaling system in mammalian eyes

Neuronal Signaling

“Cannabinoid and glutamatergic signaling systems in the human retina coexist and greatly influence one another. Under glaucomatous conditions, excess levels of glutamate accrete in the retinal ganglion cell (RGC) layer. The present study tests the putative neuroprotective effect mediated by cannabinoids at the CB1 and CB2 receptors. In the first experiment, mice were given intravitreal injections of 160 nmol N-methyl-d-aspartic acid (NMDA) in one eye and saline in the paired eye. In the second experiment, both eyes were given NMDA, while one of the two was additionally given the cannabinoid agonist WIN 55,212-2. Ten days later, animals were perfused and the retinae were dissected as wholemounts and stained with Cresyl Violet. Quantitative analysis revealed that 70% of the neurons in the retinal ganglion cell (RGC) layer exposed to NMDA underwent cell death. The addition of the cannabinoid CB1/CB2 agonist doubled the number of neurons surviving the NMDA treatment. These data provide evidence that cannabinoids, either exogenous or endogenous, may be harnessed to provide protection from neurodegenerative diseases, including glaucoma, and from glutamate-induced, and potentially other forms of neurotoxicity, under chronic or acute conditions.”

“In summary, we have demonstrated that the cannabimimetic drug, the CB1 and CB2 receptor agonist WIN55,212-2, acts to protect RGCs from NMDA-induced excitotoxicity in an in vivo mouse model. This further indicates the potential for therapeutic applications of cannabinoids in neurodegenerative diseases, including glaucoma.”

Cannabinoids as New Drug Candidates for the Treatment of Glaucoma

“Glaucoma is a blinding eye disease that affects about 70 million patients globally today. The cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system have found attention for new drug concepts. This review will analyze the potential of cannabinoids, primarily tetrahydrocannabinol, THCVS, and cannabinol, as drug candidates and the role of CB1/CB2 receptors with regard to the pathophysiology of glaucoma. The mode of action of cannabinoids as innovative drug candidates and recent formulations for topical delivery will be discussed. Cannabinoid receptors with associated TRPV channels will be evaluated for their potential as drug targets. Especially the role of the endocannabinoid system (fatty acid amide hydrolase, monoacylglycerol lipase) impacting the prostaglandin network (cyclooxygenase, PGE, PGF) and neuroprotection by inhibition of nitric oxide radical formation is in the focus of this review. Delivery systems, including recent clinical trials, will be analyzed to evaluate the potential for innovative future ophthalmological drugs.”

The Endocannabinoid System: A Potential Target for the Treatment of Various Diseases

ijms-logo“The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is primarily responsible for maintaining homeostasis, a balance in internal environment (temperature, mood, and immune system) and energy input and output in living, biological systems.

In addition to regulating physiological processes, the ECS directly influences anxiety, feeding behaviour/appetite, emotional behaviour, depression, nervous functions, neurogenesis, neuroprotection, reward, cognition, learning, memory, pain sensation, fertility, pregnancy, and pre-and post-natal development.

The ECS is also involved in several pathophysiological diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases. In recent years, genetic and pharmacological manipulation of the ECS has gained significant interest in medicine, research, and drug discovery and development.

The distribution of the components of the ECS system throughout the body, and the physiological/pathophysiological role of the ECS-signalling pathways in many diseases, all offer promising opportunities for the development of novel cannabinergic, cannabimimetic, and cannabinoid-based therapeutic drugs that genetically or pharmacologically modulate the ECS via inhibition of metabolic pathways and/or agonism or antagonism of the receptors of the ECS. This modulation results in the differential expression/activity of the components of the ECS that may be beneficial in the treatment of a number of diseases.

This manuscript in-depth review will investigate the potential of the ECS in the treatment of various diseases, and to put forth the suggestion that many of these secondary metabolites of Cannabis sativa L. (hereafter referred to as “C. sativa L.” or “medical cannabis”), may also have potential as lead compounds in the development of cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals for a variety of diseases.”


“Cannabis sativa L. as a Natural Drug Meeting the Criteria of a Multitarget Approach to Treatment”

Cannabis sativa L. as a Natural Drug Meeting the Criteria of a Multitarget Approach to Treatment

ijms-logo“Cannabis sativa L. turned out to be a valuable source of chemical compounds of various structures, showing pharmacological activity. The most important groups of compounds include phytocannabinoids and terpenes.

The pharmacological activity of Cannabis (in epilepsy, sclerosis multiplex (SM), vomiting and nausea, pain, appetite loss, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, schizophrenia, glaucoma, and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)), which has been proven so far, results from the affinity of these compounds predominantly for the receptors of the endocannabinoid system (the cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1), type two (CB2), and the G protein-coupled receptor 55 (GPR55)) but, also, for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR), glycine receptors, serotonin receptors (5-HT), transient receptor potential channels (TRP), and GPR, opioid receptors.

The synergism of action of phytochemicals present in Cannabis sp. raw material is also expressed in their increased bioavailability and penetration through the blood-brain barrier. This review provides an overview of phytochemistry and pharmacology of compounds present in Cannabis extracts in the context of the current knowledge about their synergistic actions and the implications of clinical use in the treatment of selected diseases.”

Flavonoid and cannabinoid impact on the ocular surface

 Media Kit - Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology | Lippincott  Audience Solutions | Wolters Kluwer“Purpose of review: To evaluate the impact of flavonoids and cannabinoids as anti-inflammatory and antiallergic treatments on the anterior surface of the eye.

Recent findings: Allergic conjunctivitis and dry eye syndrome are common ocular surface diseases that have been treated with traditional pharmacological measures, e.g. corticosteroids, antihistamines. Given the side-effect profiles of these medications and the growing interest in complementary treatment modalities as part of integrative medical interventions, well known flavonoids, such as quercetin and catechin, are under investigation for topical and systemic application methods for relief. As flavonoid derivatives, pycnogenol and epigallocatechin gallate have alleviated dry eye symptoms, including lacrimal gland inflammation, tear secretion, and the stability of the tear film. Research on ocular cannabinoid receptors and response to synthetic cannabinoids are also being considered for therapy of anterior ocular disorders. The expansion of herbal formulations provides a framework for future treatment regimens for ocular surface disorders.

Summary: Flavonoids and cannabinoids show promise as potential complementary treatment for allergic diseases because of their anti-inflammatory and antiallergic properties. Several studies implementing ocular and systemic application of these compounds show potential in becoming adjuvant treatment strategies for improving quality of life while also managing ocular surface disease processes.”

Cannabis and the Cornea.

Publication Cover

“While cannabis has the potential to reduce corneal pain, cannabinoids might induce side effects. This review article examines the effects of cannabinoids on the cornea. As more states and countries consider the legalization of adult cannabis use, health-care providers will need to identify ocular effects of cannabis consumption.

Methods: Studies included in this review examined the connection between cannabis and the cornea, more specifically anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory actions of cannabinoids. NCBI Databases from 1781 up to December 2019 were consulted.

Conclusion: More than half of the studies examined the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids on the cornea. As the field is still young, more studies should be conducted to develop safe cannabinoid treatments for corneal diseases.

Allosteric Cannabinoid Receptor 1 (CB1) Ligands Reduce Ocular Pain and Inflammation.

molecules-logo“Cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) activation has been reported to reduce transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TRPV1)-induced inflammatory responses and is anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory in corneal injury.

We examined whether allosteric ligands, can modulate CB1 signaling to reduce pain and inflammation in corneal hyperalgesia.

Corneal hyperalgesia was generated by chemical cauterization of cornea in wildtype and CB2 knockout (CB2-/-) mice. The novel racemic CB1 allosteric ligand GAT211 and its enantiomers GAT228 and GAT229 were examined alone or in combination with the orthosteric CB1 agonist Δ8-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ8-THC). Pain responses were assessed following capsaicin (1 µM) stimulation of injured corneas at 6 h post-cauterization. Corneal neutrophil infiltration was also analyzed. GAT228, but not GAT229 or GAT211, reduced pain scores in response to capsaicin stimulation.

Combination treatments of 0.5% GAT229 or 1% GAT211 with subthreshold Δ8-THC (0.4%) significantly reduced pain scores following capsaicin stimulation. The anti-nociceptive effects of both GAT229 and GAT228 were blocked with CB1 antagonist AM251, but remained unaffected in CB2-/- mice. Two percent GAT228, or the combination of 0.2% Δ8-THC with 0.5% GAT229 also significantly reduced corneal inflammation.

CB1 allosteric ligands could offer a novel approach for treating corneal pain and inflammation.”