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An endocannabinoid signaling system modulates anxiety-like behavior in male Syrian hamsters.



An endocannabinoid signaling system has not been identified in hamsters.


We examined the existence of an endocannabinoid signaling system in Syrian hamsters using neuroanatomical, biochemical, and behavioral pharmacological approaches.

Materials and methods

The distribution of cannabinoid receptors was mapped, and membrane fatty-acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) activity and levels of fatty-acid amides were measured in hamster brain. The impact of cannabinoid CB1 receptor blockade and inhibition of FAAH was evaluated in the elevated plus maze, rota-rod test, and models of unconditioned and conditioned social defeat.


A characteristic heterogeneous distribution of cannabinoid receptors was detected in hamster brain using [3H]CP55,940 binding and autoradiography. The FAAH inhibitor URB597 inhibited FAAH activity (IC50 = 12.8 nM) and elevated levels of fatty-acid amides (N-palmitoyl ethanolamine and N-oleoyl ethanolamine) in hamster brain. Anandamide levels were not reliably altered. The cannabinoid agonist WIN55,212-2 (1- 10 mg/kg i.p.) induced CB1-mediated motor ataxia. Blockade of CB1 with rimonabant (5 mg/kg i.p.) induced anxiogenic-like behavior in the elevated plus maze. URB597 (0.1-0.3 mg/kg i.p.) induced CB1-mediated anxiolytic-like effects in the elevated plus maze, similar to the benzodiazepine diazepam (2 mg/kg i.p.). Diazepam (2-6 mg/kg i.p.) suppressed the expression, but not the acquisition, of conditioned defeat. By contrast, neither URB597 (0.3-3.0 mg/kg i.p.) nor rimonabant (5 mg/kg i.p.) altered unconditioned or conditioned social defeat or rota-rod performance.


Endocannabinoids engage functional CB1 receptors in hamster brain to suppress anxiety-like behavior and undergo enzymatic hydrolysis catalyzed by FAAH. Our results further suggest that neither unconditioned nor conditioned social defeat in the Syrian hamster is dependent upon cannabinoid CB1 receptor activation.

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