Compensatory activation of cannabinoid CB2 receptor inhibition of GABA release in the rostral ventromedial medulla in inflammatory pain

Minghua Li, Katherine L. Suchland, Susan L. Ingram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) is a relay in the descending pain modulatory system and an important site of endocannabinoid modulation of pain. Endocannabinoids inhibit GABA release in the RVM, but it is not known whether this effect persists in chronic pain states. In the present studies, persistent inflammation induced by complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA) increased GABAergic miniature IPSCs (mIPSCs). Endocannabinoid activation of cannabinoid (CB1) receptors known to inhibit presynaptic GABA release was significantly reduced in the RVM of CFA-treated rats compared with naive rats. The reduction in CFA-treated rats correlated with decreased CB1 receptor protein expression and function in the RVM. Paradoxically, the nonselective CB1/CB2 receptor agonist WIN55212 inhibited GABAergic mIPSCs in both naive and CFA-treated rats. However, WIN55212 inhibition was reversed by the CB1 receptor antagonist rimonabant in naive rats but not in CFA-treated rats. WIN55212-mediated inhibition in CFA-treated rats was blocked by the CB2 receptor-selective antagonist SR144528, indicating that CB2 receptor function in the RVM is increased during persistent inflammation. Consistent with these results, CB2 receptor agonists AM1241 and GW405833 inhibited GABAergic mIPSC frequency only in CFA-treated rats, and the inhibition was reversed with SR144528. When administered alone, SR144528 and another CB2 receptor-selective antagonist AM630 increased mIPSC frequency in the RVM of CFA-treated rats, indicating that CB2 receptors are tonically activated by endocannabinoids. Our data provide evidence that CB2 receptor function emerges in the RVM in persistent inflammation and that selective CB2 receptor agonists may be useful for treatment of persistent inflammatory pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)626-636
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 18 2017


  • Endocannabinoids
  • GABAergic transmission
  • Persistent inflammation
  • RVM
  • Whole-cell patch clamp

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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