• Journal Article

Gonadal hormone modulation of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol-induced antinociception and metabolism in female versus male rats


Craft, R. M., Haas, A. E., Wiley, J., Yu, Z., & Clowers, B. H. (2017). Gonadal hormone modulation of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol-induced antinociception and metabolism in female versus male rats. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, 152, 36-43. DOI: 10.1016/j.pbb.2016.09.006


The gonadal hormones testosterone (T) in adult males and estradiol (E2) in adult females have been reported to modulate behavioral effects of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This study determined whether activational effects of T and E2 are sex-specific, and whether hormones modulate production of the active metabolite 11-hydroxy-THC (11-OH-THC) and the inactive metabolite 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC (THC-COOH). Adult male and female rats were gonadectomized (GDX) and treated with nothing (0), T (10-mm Silastic capsule/100 g body weight), or E2 (1-mm Silastic capsule/rat). Three weeks later, saline or the cytochrome P450 inhibitor proadifen (25 mg/kg; to block THC metabolism and boost THC's effects) was injected i.p.; 1 h later, vehicle or THC (3 mg/kg females, 5 mg/kg males) was injected i.p., and rats were tested for antinociceptive and motoric effects 15–240 min post-injection. T did not consistently alter THC-induced antinociception in males, but decreased it in females (tail withdrawal test). Conversely, T decreased THC-induced catalepsy in males, but had no effect in females. E2 did not alter THC-induced antinociception in females, but enhanced it in males. The discrepant effects of T and E2 on males' and females' behavioral responses to THC suggests that sexual differentiation of THC sensitivity is not simply due to activational effects of hormones, but also occurs via organizational hormone or sex chromosome effects. Analysis of serum showed that proadifen increased THC levels, E2 increased 11-OH-THC in GDX males, and T decreased 11-OH-THC (and to a lesser extent, THC) in GDX females. Thus, hormone modulation of THC's behavioral effects is caused in part by hormone modulation of THC oxidation to its active metabolite. However, the fact that hormone modulation of metabolism did not alter THC sensitivity similarly on all behavioral measures within each sex suggests that other mechanisms also play a role in gonadal hormone modulation of THC sensitivity in adult rats.