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      Targeting Cannabinoid Receptors: Current Status and Prospects of Natural Products

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          Abstract

          Cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), as part of the endocannabinoid system, play a critical role in numerous human physiological and pathological conditions. Thus, considerable efforts have been made to develop ligands for CB1 and CB2, resulting in hundreds of phyto- and synthetic cannabinoids which have shown varying affinities relevant for the treatment of various diseases. However, only a few of these ligands are clinically used. Recently, more detailed structural information for cannabinoid receptors was revealed thanks to the powerfulness of cryo-electron microscopy, which now can accelerate structure-based drug discovery. At the same time, novel peptide-type cannabinoids from animal sources have arrived at the scene, with their potential in vivo therapeutic effects in relation to cannabinoid receptors. From a natural products perspective, it is expected that more novel cannabinoids will be discovered and forecasted as promising drug leads from diverse natural sources and species, such as animal venoms which constitute a true pharmacopeia of toxins modulating diverse targets, including voltage- and ligand-gated ion channels, G protein-coupled receptors such as CB1 and CB2, with astonishing affinity and selectivity. Therefore, it is believed that discovering novel cannabinoids starting from studying the biodiversity of the species living on planet earth is an uncharted territory.

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          Most cited references 160

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          Molecular characterization of a peripheral receptor for cannabinoids.

          The major active ingredient of marijuana, delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta 9-THC), has been used as a psychoactive agent for thousands of years. Marijuana, and delta 9-THC, also exert a wide range of other effects including analgesia, anti-inflammation, immunosuppression, anticonvulsion, alleviation of intraocular pressure in glaucoma, and attenuation of vomiting. The clinical application of cannabinoids has, however, been limited by their psychoactive effects, and this has led to interest in the biochemical bases of their action. Progress stemmed initially from the synthesis of potent derivatives of delta 9-THC, and more recently from the cloning of a gene encoding a G-protein-coupled receptor for cannabinoids. This receptor is expressed in the brain but not in the periphery, except for a low level in testes. It has been proposed that the nonpsychoactive effects of cannabinoids are either mediated centrally or through direct interaction with other, non-receptor proteins. Here we report the cloning of a receptor for cannabinoids that is not expressed in the brain but rather in macrophages in the marginal zone of spleen.
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            Structure of a cannabinoid receptor and functional expression of the cloned cDNA.

            Marijuana and many of its constituent cannabinoids influence the central nervous system (CNS) in a complex and dose-dependent manner. Although CNS depression and analgesia are well documented effects of the cannabinoids, the mechanisms responsible for these and other cannabinoid-induced effects are not so far known. The hydrophobic nature of these substances has suggested that cannabinoids resemble anaesthetic agents in their action, that is, they nonspecifically disrupt cellular membranes. Recent evidence, however, has supported a mechanism involving a G protein-coupled receptor found in brain and neural cell lines, and which inhibits adenylate cyclase activity in a dose-dependent, stereoselective and pertussis toxin-sensitive manner. Also, the receptor is more responsive to psychoactive cannabinoids than to non-psychoactive cannabinoids. Here we report the cloning and expression of a complementary DNA that encodes a G protein-coupled receptor with all of these properties. Its messenger RNA is found in cell lines and regions of the brain that have cannabinoid receptors. These findings suggest that this protein is involved in cannabinoid-induced CNS effects (including alterations in mood and cognition) experienced by users of marijuana.
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              The future of peptide-based drugs.

              The suite of currently used drugs can be divided into two categories - traditional 'small molecule' drugs with typical molecular weights of 5000 Da that are not orally bioavailable and need to be delivered via injection. Due to their small size, conventional small molecule drugs may suffer from reduced target selectivity that often ultimately manifests in human side-effects, whereas protein therapeutics tend to be exquisitely specific for their targets due to many more interactions with them, but this comes at a cost of low bioavailability, poor membrane permeability, and metabolic instability. The time has now come to reinvestigate new drug leads that fit between these two molecular weight extremes, with the goal of combining advantages of small molecules (cost, conformational restriction, membrane permeability, metabolic stability, oral bioavailability) with those of proteins (natural components, target specificity, high potency). This article uses selected examples of peptides to highlight the importance of peptide drugs, some potential new opportunities for their exploitation, and some difficult challenges ahead in this field. © 2012 John Wiley & Sons A/S.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Int J Mol Sci
                Int J Mol Sci
                ijms
                International Journal of Molecular Sciences
                MDPI
                1422-0067
                17 July 2020
                July 2020
                : 21
                : 14
                Affiliations
                Toxicology and Pharmacology, KU Leuven, Campus Gasthuisberg, O&N 2, Herestraat 49, P.O. Box 922, 3000 Leuven, Belgium; dongchen.an@ 123456kuleuven.be (D.A.); steve.peigneur@ 123456kuleuven.be (S.P.); louise.hendrickx@ 123456kuleuven.be (L.A.H.)
                Author notes
                Article
                ijms-21-05064
                10.3390/ijms21145064
                7404216
                32709050
                © 2020 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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