Tumor necrosis factor activation of vagal afferent terminal calcium is blocked by cannabinoids.J Neurosci 2012; 32(15):5237-41JN
The early proinflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is released in significant quantities by the activated immune system in response to infection, leukemia, autoimmune disorders, and radiation sickness. Nausea, emesis, and anorexia are common features of these disorders. TNF action on vagal afferent terminals in the brainstem is a likely cause of the malaise associated with these disorders. Our previous work has shown that TNF action to excite vagal afferents occurs as a result of sensitization of ryanodine channels in afferent nerve terminals. For millennia, cannabinoids (CB) have been used to combat the visceral malaise associated with chronic disease, although the mechanism of action has not been clear. Previous work in culture systems suggests that CB1 agonists can suppress neurotransmission by downregulating ryanodine channels through a protein kinase A (PKA)-dependent mechanism. Laser confocal calcium imaging methods were used to directly examine effects of CB1 cannabinoid agonists and TNF on visceral afferent signaling in the rat hindbrain. CB1 agonists blocked the effects of TNF to amplify vagal afferent responsiveness; blockade of PKA with H89 also eliminated the TNF amplification effect. These results help to explain the effectiveness of cannabinoids in blocking the malaise generated by TNF-releasing disease processes by opposing effects on ryanodine channels.