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Special Issue "Endocannabinoid System in Health and Disease: Current Situation and Future Perspectives 2.0"

A special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (ISSN 1422-0067). This special issue belongs to the section "Molecular Pathology, Diagnostics, and Therapeutics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 October 2020.

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Rosaria Meccariello
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Movement and Wellness Sciences, Parthenope University of Naples, Via Medina 40, I-80133 Naples, Italy
Interests: endocannabinoid system; endocannabinoids–GnRH–steroids crosstalk; kisspeptins; reproduction; HPG axis; spermatogenesis; spermatozoa; endocrine disruptors; epigenetics
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue is the continuation of our previous successful Special Issue "Endocannabinoid System in Health and Disease: Current Situation and Future Perspectives".

The discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) comprising cannabinoid receptors, their endogenous ligands (endocannabinoids), and synthetic and metabolizing enzymes triggered a large number of studies in cell lines, animal models, and humans. ECS modulates many physiological and pathological processes, both in the peripheral and central nervous systems and in peripheral organs. This signaling system has a recognized activity on nervous system development, synaptic plasticity, learning and memory, neuroinflammation, pain and neurodegeneration, stress responsivity, mood and behavior, food intake and metabolism, reproduction, fertility and pregnancy, immune response, cardiac functions, cancer progression, and so much more. As a consequence, the modulation of ECS signaling has potential therapeutic applications for a broad range of diseases, including neurodegenerative, reproductive, cardiovascular, and inflammatory disorders, metabolic syndrome and obesity, and cancer, among many others. However, despite experimental evidence, molecular and epigenetic regulatory mechanisms of ECS activity remain to be fully elucidated, hence the need to fill this gap in order to devise clinically successful treatment strategies.

This Special issue aims at expanding the current knowledge on ECS in both physiological and pathological conditions and on its possible therapeutic exploitation. Experimental studies in in vitro and in vivo models, review articles, and clinical studies as well are all welcome for consideration.

Dr. Rosaria Meccariello
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Molecular Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. There is an Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal. For details about the APC please see here. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • endocannabinoids
  • endocannabinoids system
  • synaptic plasticity
  • neurological diseases
  • energy balance, food intake and metabolic disorders
  • reproduction, fertility and pregnancy
  • immune response
  • cardiac functions
  • stress
  • pain
  • cancer progression

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Jump to: Review

Open AccessArticle
Monitoring Cannabinoid CB2 -Receptor Mediated cAMP Dynamics by FRET-Based Live Cell Imaging
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(21), 7880; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21217880 - 23 Oct 2020
Abstract
G-protein coupled cannabinoid CB2 receptor signaling and function is primarily mediated by its inhibitory effect on adenylate cyclase. The visualization and monitoring of agonist dependent dynamic 3′,5′-cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) signaling at the single cell level is still missing for CB2 receptors. This [...] Read more.
G-protein coupled cannabinoid CB2 receptor signaling and function is primarily mediated by its inhibitory effect on adenylate cyclase. The visualization and monitoring of agonist dependent dynamic 3′,5′-cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) signaling at the single cell level is still missing for CB2 receptors. This paper presents an application of a live cell imaging while using a Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based biosensor, Epac1-camps, for quantification of cAMP. We established HEK293 cells stably co-expressing human CB2 and Epac1-camps and quantified cAMP responses upon Forskolin pre-stimulation, followed by treatment with the CB2 ligands JWH-133, HU308, β-caryophyllene, or 2-arachidonoylglycerol. We could identify cells showing either an agonist dependent CB2-response as expected, cells displaying no response, and cells with constitutive receptor activity. In Epac1-CB2-HEK293 responder cells, the terpenoid β-caryophyllene significantly modified the cAMP response through CB2. For all of the tested ligands, a relatively high proportion of cells with constitutively active CB2 receptors was identified. Our method enabled the visualization of intracellular dynamic cAMP responses to the stimuli at single cell level, providing insights into the nature of heterologous CB2 expression systems that contributes to the understanding of Gαi-mediated G-Protein coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling in living cells and opens up possibilities for future investigations of endogenous CB2 responses. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Alterations in Anandamide Synthesis and Degradation during Osteoarthritis Progression in an Animal Model
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(19), 7381; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21197381 - 06 Oct 2020
Abstract
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease manifested by movement limitations and chronic pain. Endocannabinoid system (ECS) may modulate nociception via cannabinoid and TRPV1 receptors. The purpose of our study was to examine alterations in the spinal and joint endocannabinoid system during pain [...] Read more.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease manifested by movement limitations and chronic pain. Endocannabinoid system (ECS) may modulate nociception via cannabinoid and TRPV1 receptors. The purpose of our study was to examine alterations in the spinal and joint endocannabinoid system during pain development in an animal model of OA. Wistar rats received intra-articular injection of 3mg of sodium monoiodoacetate (MIA) into the knee joint. Animals were sacrificed on day 2, 7, 14, 21, 28 after injection and lumbar spinal cord, cartilage and synovium were collected. Changes in the transcription levels of the ECS elements were measured. At the spinal level, gene expression levels of the cannabinoid and TRPV1 receptors as well as enzymes involved in anandamide synthesis and degradation were elevated in the advanced OA phase. In the joint, an important role of the synovium was demonstrated, since cartilage degeneration resulted in attenuation of the changes in the gene expression. Enzymes responsible for anandamide synthesis and degradation were upregulated particularly in the early stages of OA, presumably in response to early local joint inflammation. The presented study provides missing information about the MIA-induced OA model and encourages the development of a therapy focused on the molecular role of ECS. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Hippocampal 2-Arachidonoyl Glycerol Signaling Regulates Time-of-Day- and Stress-Dependent Effects on Rat Short-Term Memory
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(19), 7316; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21197316 - 03 Oct 2020
Abstract
Background: Cannabinoids induce biphasic effects on memory depending on stress levels. We previously demonstrated that different stress intensities, experienced soon after encoding, impaired rat short-term recognition memory in a time-of-day-dependent manner, and that boosting endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) levels restored memory performance. Here, we [...] Read more.
Background: Cannabinoids induce biphasic effects on memory depending on stress levels. We previously demonstrated that different stress intensities, experienced soon after encoding, impaired rat short-term recognition memory in a time-of-day-dependent manner, and that boosting endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) levels restored memory performance. Here, we examined if two different stress intensities and time-of-day alter hippocampal endocannabinoid tone, and whether these changes modulate short-term memory. Methods: Male Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to an object recognition task and exposed, at two different times of the day (i.e., morning or afternoon), to low or high stress conditions, immediately after encoding. Memory retention was assessed 1 hr later. Hippocampal AEA and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG) content and the activity of their primary degrading enzymes, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL), were measured soon after testing. Results: Consistent with our previous findings, low stress impaired 1-hr memory performance only in the morning, whereas exposure to high stress impaired memory independently of testing time. Stress exposure decreased AEA levels independently of memory alterations. Interestingly, exposure to high stress decreased 2-AG content and, accordingly, increased MAGL activity, selectively in the afternoon. Thus, to further evaluate 2-AG’s role in the modulation of short-term recognition memory, rats were given bilateral intra-hippocampal injections of the 2-AG hydrolysis inhibitor KML29 immediately after training, then subjected to low or high stress conditions and tested 1 hr later. Conclusions: KML29 abolished the time-of-day-dependent impairing effects of stress on short-term memory, ameliorating short-term recognition memory performance. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Disease-Specific Derangement of Circulating Endocannabinoids and N-Acylethanolamines in Myeloproliferative Neoplasms
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(9), 3399; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21093399 - 11 May 2020
Abstract
Growing evidence highlights the endocannabinoid (EC) system involvement in cancer progression. Lipid mediators of this system are secreted by hematopoietic cells, including the ECs 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol (2AG) and arachidonoyl-ethanolamide (AEA), the 2AG metabolite 1AG, and members of N-acylethanolamine (NAE) family—palmitoyl-ethanolamide (PEA) and oleoyl-ethanolamide (OEA). [...] Read more.
Growing evidence highlights the endocannabinoid (EC) system involvement in cancer progression. Lipid mediators of this system are secreted by hematopoietic cells, including the ECs 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol (2AG) and arachidonoyl-ethanolamide (AEA), the 2AG metabolite 1AG, and members of N-acylethanolamine (NAE) family—palmitoyl-ethanolamide (PEA) and oleoyl-ethanolamide (OEA). However, the relevance of the EC system in myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) was never investigated. We explored the EC plasma profile in 55 MPN patients, including myelofibrosis (MF; n = 41), polycythemia vera (PV; n = 9), and essential thrombocythemia (ET; n = 5) subclasses and in 10 healthy controls (HC). AEA, PEA, OEA, 2AG, and 1AG plasma levels were measured by LC–MS/MS. Overall considered, MPN patients displayed similar EC and NAE levels compared to HC. Nonetheless, AEA levels in MPN were directly associated with the platelet count. MF patients showed higher levels of the sum of 2AG and 1AG compared to ET and PV patients, higher OEA/AEA ratios compared to HC and ET patients, and higher OEA/PEA ratios compared to HC. Furthermore, the sum of 2AG and 1AG positively correlated with JAK2V617F variant allele frequency and splenomegaly in MF and was elevated in high-risk PV patients compared to in low-risk PV patients. In conclusion, our work revealed specific alterations of ECs and NAE plasma profile in MPN subclasses and potentially relevant associations with disease severity. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Sensitivity of the Fasciae to the Endocannabinoid System: Production of Hyaluronan-Rich Vesicles and Potential Peripheral Effects of Cannabinoids in Fascial Tissue
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(8), 2936; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21082936 - 22 Apr 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
The demonstrated expression of endocannabinoid receptors in myofascial tissue suggested the role of fascia as a source and modulator of pain. Fibroblasts can modulate the production of the various components of the extracellular matrix, according to type of stimuli: physical, mechanical, hormonal, and [...] Read more.
The demonstrated expression of endocannabinoid receptors in myofascial tissue suggested the role of fascia as a source and modulator of pain. Fibroblasts can modulate the production of the various components of the extracellular matrix, according to type of stimuli: physical, mechanical, hormonal, and pharmacological. In this work, fascial fibroblasts were isolated from small samples of human fascia lata of the thigh, collected from three volunteer patients (two men, one woman) during orthopedic surgery. This text demonstrates for the first time that the agonist of cannabinoid receptor 2, HU-308, can lead to in vitro production of hyaluronan-rich vesicles only 3–4 h after treatment, being rapidly released into the extracellular environment. We demonstrated that these vesicles are rich in hyaluronan after Alcian blue and Toluidine blue stainings, immunocytochemistry, and transmission electron microscopy. In addition, incubation with the antagonist AM630 blocked vesicles production by cells, confirming that release of hyaluronan is a cannabinoid-mediated effect. These results may show how fascial cells respond to the endocannabinoid system by regulating and remodeling the formation of the extracellular matrix. This is a first step in our understanding of how therapeutic applications of cannabinoids to treat pain may also have a peripheral effect, altering the biosynthesis of the extracellular matrix in fasciae and, consequently, remodeling the tissue and its properties. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Cannabinoid Receptors: An Update on Cell Signaling, Pathophysiological Roles and Therapeutic Opportunities in Neurological, Cardiovascular, and Inflammatory Diseases
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(20), 7693; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21207693 - 17 Oct 2020
Abstract
The identification of the human cannabinoid receptors and their roles in health and disease, has been one of the most significant biochemical and pharmacological advancements to have occurred in the past few decades. In spite of the major strides made in furthering endocannabinoid [...] Read more.
The identification of the human cannabinoid receptors and their roles in health and disease, has been one of the most significant biochemical and pharmacological advancements to have occurred in the past few decades. In spite of the major strides made in furthering endocannabinoid research, therapeutic exploitation of the endocannabinoid system has often been a challenging task. An impaired endocannabinoid tone often manifests as changes in expression and/or functions of type 1 and/or type 2 cannabinoid receptors. It becomes important to understand how alterations in cannabinoid receptor cellular signaling can lead to disruptions in major physiological and biological functions, as they are often associated with the pathogenesis of several neurological, cardiovascular, metabolic, and inflammatory diseases. This review focusses mostly on the pathophysiological roles of type 1 and type 2 cannabinoid receptors, and it attempts to integrate both cellular and physiological functions of the cannabinoid receptors. Apart from an updated review of pre-clinical and clinical studies, the adequacy/inadequacy of cannabinoid-based therapeutics in various pathological conditions is also highlighted. Finally, alternative strategies to modulate endocannabinoid tone, and future directions are also emphasized. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Neural Stem Cells and Cannabinoids in the Spotlight as Potential Therapy for Epilepsy
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(19), 7309; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21197309 - 03 Oct 2020
Abstract
Epilepsy is one of the most common brain diseases worldwide, having a huge burden in society. The main hallmark of epilepsy is the occurrence of spontaneous recurrent seizures, having a tremendous impact on the lives of the patients and of their relatives. Currently, [...] Read more.
Epilepsy is one of the most common brain diseases worldwide, having a huge burden in society. The main hallmark of epilepsy is the occurrence of spontaneous recurrent seizures, having a tremendous impact on the lives of the patients and of their relatives. Currently, the therapeutic strategies are mostly based on the use of antiepileptic drugs, and because several types of epilepsies are of unknown origin, a high percentage of patients are resistant to the available pharmacotherapy, continuing to experience seizures overtime. Therefore, the search for new drugs and therapeutic targets is highly important. One key aspect to be targeted is the aberrant adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) derived from Neural Stem Cells (NSCs). Indeed, targeting seizure-induced AHN may reduce recurrent seizures and shed some light on the mechanisms of disease. The endocannabinoid system is a known modulator of AHN, and due to the known endogenous antiepileptic properties, it is an interesting candidate for the generation of new antiepileptic drugs. However, further studies and clinical trials are required to investigate the putative mechanisms by which cannabinoids can be used to treat epilepsy. In this manuscript, we will review how cannabinoid-induced modulation of NSCs may promote neural plasticity and whether these drugs can be used as putative antiepileptic treatment. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Endocannabinoid-Epigenetic Cross-Talk: A Bridge toward Stress Coping
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(17), 6252; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21176252 - 29 Aug 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
There is no argument with regard to the physical and psychological stress-related nature of neuropsychiatric disorders. Yet, the mechanisms that facilitate disease onset starting from molecular stress responses are elusive. Environmental stress challenges individuals’ equilibrium, enhancing homeostatic request in the attempt to steer [...] Read more.
There is no argument with regard to the physical and psychological stress-related nature of neuropsychiatric disorders. Yet, the mechanisms that facilitate disease onset starting from molecular stress responses are elusive. Environmental stress challenges individuals’ equilibrium, enhancing homeostatic request in the attempt to steer down arousal-instrumental molecular pathways that underlie hypervigilance and anxiety. A relevant homeostatic pathway is the endocannabinoid system (ECS). In this review, we summarize recent discoveries unambiguously listing ECS as a stress coping mechanism. As stress evokes huge excitatory responses in emotional-relevant limbic areas, the ECS limits glutamate release via 2-arachydonilglycerol (2-AG) stress-induced synthesis and retrograde cannabinoid 1 (CB1)-receptor activation at the synapse. However, ECS shows intrinsic vulnerability as 2-AG overstimulation by chronic stress rapidly leads to CB1-receptor desensitization. In this review, we emphasize the protective role of 2-AG in stress-response termination and stress resiliency. Interestingly, we discuss ECS regulation with a further nuclear homeostatic system whose nature is exquisitely epigenetic, orchestrated by Lysine Specific Demethylase 1. We here emphasize a remarkable example of stress-coping network where transcriptional homeostasis subserves synaptic and behavioral adaptation, aiming at reducing psychiatric effects of traumatic experiences. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Distinctive Evidence Involved in the Role of Endocannabinoid Signalling in Parkinson’s Disease: A Perspective on Associated Therapeutic Interventions
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(17), 6235; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21176235 - 28 Aug 2020
Abstract
Current pharmacotherapy of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is symptomatic and palliative, with levodopa/carbidopa therapy remaining the prime treatment, and nevertheless, being unable to modulate the progression of the neurodegeneration. No available treatment for PD can enhance the patient’s life-quality by regressing this diseased state. [...] Read more.
Current pharmacotherapy of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is symptomatic and palliative, with levodopa/carbidopa therapy remaining the prime treatment, and nevertheless, being unable to modulate the progression of the neurodegeneration. No available treatment for PD can enhance the patient’s life-quality by regressing this diseased state. Various studies have encouraged the enrichment of treatment possibilities by discovering the association of the effects of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in PD. These reviews delineate the reported evidence from the literature on the neuromodulatory role of the endocannabinoid system and expression of cannabinoid receptors in symptomatology, cause, and treatment of PD progression, wherein cannabinoid (CB) signalling experiences alterations of biphasic pattern during PD progression. Published papers to date were searched via MEDLINE, PubMed, etc., using specific key words in the topic of our manuscript. Endocannabinoids regulate the basal ganglia neuronal circuit pathways, synaptic plasticity, and motor functions via communication with dopaminergic, glutamatergic, and GABAergic signalling systems bidirectionally in PD. Further, gripping preclinical and clinical studies demonstrate the context regarding the cannabinoid compounds, which is supported by various evidence (neuroprotection, suppression of excitotoxicity, oxidative stress, glial activation, and additional benefits) provided by cannabinoid-like compounds (much research addresses the direct regulation of cannabinoids with dopamine transmission and other signalling pathways in PD). More data related to endocannabinoids efficacy, safety, and pharmacokinetic profiles need to be explored, providing better insights into their potential to ameliorate or even regress PD. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Cannabinoid Receptor Type 2: A Possible Target in SARS-CoV-2 (CoV-19) Infection?
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(11), 3809; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21113809 - 27 May 2020
Cited by 4
Abstract
In late December 2019, a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 or CoV-19) appeared in Wuhan, China, causing a global pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 causes mild to severe respiratory tract inflammation, often developing into lung fibrosis with thrombosis in pulmonary small vessels and causing even death. COronaVIrus Disease [...] Read more.
In late December 2019, a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 or CoV-19) appeared in Wuhan, China, causing a global pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 causes mild to severe respiratory tract inflammation, often developing into lung fibrosis with thrombosis in pulmonary small vessels and causing even death. COronaVIrus Disease (COVID-19) patients manifest exacerbated inflammatory and immune responses, cytokine storm, prevalence of pro-inflammatory M1 macrophages and increased levels of resident and circulating immune cells. Men show higher susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection than women, likely due to estrogens production. The protective role of estrogens, as well as an immune-suppressive activity that limits the excessive inflammation, can be mediated by cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2). The role of this receptor in modulating inflammation and immune response is well documented in fact in several settings. The stimulation of CB2 receptors is known to limit the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, shift the macrophage phenotype towards the anti-inflammatory M2 type and enhance the immune-modulating properties of mesenchymal stromal cells. For these reasons, we hypothesize that CB2 receptor can be a therapeutic target in COVID-19 pandemic emergency. Full article
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