Adolescent exposure to Δ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol alters the transcriptional trajectory and dendritic architecture of prefrontal pyramidal neurons

Michael L. Miller, Benjamin Chadwick, Dara L. Dickstein, Immanuel Purushothaman, Gabor Egervari, Tanni Rahman, Chloe Tessereau, Patrick R. Hof, Panos Roussos, Li Shen, Mark G. Baxter, Yasmin L. Hurd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Neuronal circuits within the prefrontal cortex (PFC) mediate higher cognitive functions and emotional regulation that are disrupted in psychiatric disorders. The PFC undergoes significant maturation during adolescence, a period when cannabis use in humans has been linked to subsequent vulnerability to psychiatric disorders such as addiction and schizophrenia. Here, we investigated in a rat model the effects of adolescent exposure to Δ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive component of cannabis, on the morphological architecture and transcriptional profile of layer III pyramidal neurons—using cell type- and layer-specific high-resolution microscopy, laser capture microdissection and next-generation RNA-sequencing. The results confirmed known normal expansions in basal dendritic arborization and dendritic spine pruning during the transition from late adolescence to early adulthood that were accompanied by differential expression of gene networks associated with neurodevelopment in control animals. In contrast, THC exposure disrupted the normal developmental process by inducing premature pruning of dendritic spines and allostatic atrophy of dendritic arborization in early adulthood. Surprisingly, there was minimal overlap of the developmental transcriptomes between THC- and vehicle-exposed rats. THC altered functional gene networks related to cell morphogenesis, dendritic development, and cytoskeleton organization. Marked developmental network disturbances were evident for epigenetic regulators with enhanced co-expression of chromatin- and dendrite-related genes in THC-treated animals. Dysregulated PFC co-expression networks common to both the THC-treated animals and patients with schizophrenia were enriched for cytoskeletal and neurite development. Overall, adolescent THC exposure altered the morphological and transcriptional trajectory of PFC pyramidal neurons, which could enhance vulnerability to psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)588-600
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Adolescent exposure to Δ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol alters the transcriptional trajectory and dendritic architecture of prefrontal pyramidal neurons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this