Naunyn-Schmiedeberg's Archives of Pharmacology

, Volume 372, Issue 5, pp 354–361 | Cite as

Cannabidiol is an allosteric modulator at mu- and delta-opioid receptors

  • Markus KathmannEmail author
  • Karsten Flau
  • Agnes Redmer
  • Christian Tränkle
  • Eberhard Schlicker
Original Article


The mechanism of action of cannabidiol, one of the major constituents of cannabis, is not well understood but a noncompetitive interaction with mu opioid receptors has been suggested on the basis of saturation binding experiments. The aim of the present study was to examine whether cannabidiol is an allosteric modulator at this receptor, using kinetic binding studies, which are particularly sensitive for the measurement of allosteric interactions at G protein-coupled receptors. In addition, we studied whether such a mechanism also extends to the delta opioid receptor. For comparison, (-)-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC; another major constituent of cannabis) and rimonabant (a cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist) were studied. In mu opioid receptor binding studies on rat cerebral cortex membrane homogenates, the agonist 3H-DAMGO bound to a homogeneous class of binding sites with a KD of 0.68±0.02 nM and a Bmax of 203±7 fmol/mg protein. The dissociation of 3H-DAMGO induced by naloxone 10 μM (half life time of 7±1 min) was accelerated by cannabidiol and THC (at 100 μM, each) by a factor of 12 and 2, respectively. The respective pEC50 values for a half-maximum elevation of the dissociation rate constant koff were 4.38 and 4.67; 3H-DAMGO dissociation was not affected by rimonabant 10 μM. In delta opioid receptor binding studies on rat cerebral cortex membrane homogenates, the antagonist 3H-naltrindole bound to a homogeneous class of binding sites with a KD of 0.24±0.02 nM and a Bmax of 352±22 fmol/mg protein. The dissociation of 3H-naltrindole induced by naltrindole 10 μM (half life time of 119±3 min) was accelerated by cannabidiol and THC (at 100 μM, each) by a factor of 2, each. The respective pEC50 values were 4.10 and 5.00; 3H-naltrindole dissociation was not affected by rimonabant 10 μM. The present study shows that cannabidiol is an allosteric modulator at mu and delta opioid receptors. This property is shared by THC but not by rimonabant.


3H-DAMGO binding 3H-Naltrindole binding (-)-Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Cannabinoid CB1 receptor Rat cerebral cortex Rimonabant 



4-(2-aminoethyl)benzenesulfonyl fluoride











This study was supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Schl 266/5-5 and Graduiertenkolleg 246 TP 01). We are also indebted to Mrs. P. Zeidler for her skilled technical assistance and to GW Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi-Aventis for gifts of drugs.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Markus Kathmann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Karsten Flau
    • 1
  • Agnes Redmer
    • 1
  • Christian Tränkle
    • 2
  • Eberhard Schlicker
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of MedicineUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
  2. 2.Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Institute of PharmacyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany

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