Sex differences in delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol metabolism and in vivo pharmacology following acute and repeated dosing in adolescent rats
Mechanisms that may underlie age and sex differences in the pharmacological effects of cannabinoids are relatively unexplored. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether sex differences in metabolism of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), similar to those observed previously in adult rats, also occurred in adolescent rats and might contribute to age and sex differences in its in vivo pharmacology. Male and female adolescent rats were exposed to THC acutely or repeatedly for 10 days. Subsequently, some of the rats were sacrificed and blood and brain levels of THC and one of its metabolites, 11-hydroxy-delta9-THC (11-OH-THC), were measured. Other rats were evaluated in a battery of in vivo tests that are sensitive to cannabinoids. Concentrations of 11-OH-THC in the brains of female adult and adolescent rats exceeded those observed in male conspecifics, particularly after repeated THC administration. In contrast, brain levels of THC did not differ between the sexes. In vivo, acute THC produced dose-related hypothermia, catalepsy and suppression of locomotion in adolescent rats of both sexes, with tolerance developing after repeated administration. With a minor exception, sex differences in THC's effects in the in vivo assays were not apparent. Together with previous findings, the present results suggest that sex differences in pharmacokinetics cannot fully explain the patterns of sex differences (and lack of sex differences) in cannabinoid effects across behaviors. Hormonal and/or pharmacodynamic factors are also likely to play a role.