Ongoing societal changes in views on the medical and recreational roles of cannabis increased the use of concentrated plant extracts with a Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of more than 90%. Even though prenatal THC exposure is widely considered adverse for neuronal development, equivalent experimental data for young age cohorts are largely lacking. Here, we administered plant-derived THC (1 or 5 mg/kg) to mice daily during P5–P16 and P5–P35 and monitored its effects on hippocampal neuronal survival and specification by high-resolution imaging and iTRAQ proteomics, respectively. We found that THC indiscriminately affects pyramidal cells and both cannabinoid receptor 1+ (CB1R)+ and CB1R– interneurons by P16. THC particularly disrupted the expression of mitochondrial proteins (complexes I–IV), a change that had persisted even 4 months after the end of drug exposure. This was reflected by a THC-induced loss of membrane integrity occluding mitochondrial respiration and could be partially or completely rescued by pH stabilization, antioxidants, bypassed glycolysis, and targeting either mitochondrial soluble adenylyl cyclase or the mitochondrial voltage-dependent anion channel. Overall, THC exposure during infancy induces significant and long-lasting reorganization of neuronal circuits through mechanisms that, in large part, render cellular bioenergetics insufficient to sustain key developmental processes in otherwise healthy neurons.
Johannes Beiersdorf, Zsofia Hevesi, Daniela Calvigioni, Jakob Pyszkowski, Roman Romanov, Edit Szodorai, Gert Lubec, Sally Shirran, Catherine H. Botting, Siegfried Kasper, Geoffrey W. Guy, Roy Gray, Vincenzo Di Marzo, Tibor Harkany, Erik Keimpema