INVOLVEMENT OF THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM IN THE EPENDYMOGLIAL RESPONSE TO SPINAL CORD REGENERATION IN THE MEXICAN AXOLOTL, Ambystoma mexicanum
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Research into the molecular mechanisms of the psychoactive effects of cannabis has led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a neuromodulatory system conserved throughout the animal kingdom. Little is known about its function in mammals, but there is evidence suggesting its contributions in the cellular processes that are important in CNS development and are conserved during CNS regeneration. However, these studies focussed primarily on mammals, which display limited abilities to regenerate after traumatic CNS injury. Furthermore, nothing is known regarding the role of endocannabinoids in CNS regeneration-competent species like the Mexican axolotl, one of the few vertebrates that can regenerate their spinal cord. The current study investigates the potential role of the ECS in influencing the pro-regenerative response observed in the axolotl spinal cord. I provide evidence that the main ECS receptor in the CNS (CB1) is upregulated in the regenerating caudal spinal cord and tail tissues of larval axolotls at 4 hours post amputation, lasting until 14 days post amputation. By performing immunofluorescence studies on these tissues, I demonstrate the expression of this receptor mainly in the ependymal region. In addition, bath application of the CB1 inverse agonist, AM251, significantly inhibited caudal growth of the spinal cord and tail by 7 days post amputation. The current study also identified an upregulation in a second ECS receptor, CB2, at 7- and 14-days post amputation. Immunofluorescence analysis revealed the localization of this receptor to the subependymal regions within the spinal cord. Furthermore, inhibition with the CB2 inverse agonist, AM630, similarly demonstrated an inhibition in spinal cord and tail regeneration by 7 days post amputation. An assessment of CB1 and CB2 expression was performed by identifying their localization in bromodeoxyuridine-positive (proliferating) and doublecortin-positive (differentiating neuronal) cells in 7-day regenerate tissue. These studies are the first to examine the role of the ECS during spinal cord regeneration in a regeneration-competent vertebrate and may aid in developing novel therapies for human nervous system injuries or pathologies.