Marijuana smokers and animals treated with ?9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, the principal component of marijuana, show alterations of sperm morphology suggesting a role for cannabinoids in sperm differentiation and/or maturation. Since the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CNR1) activation appears to play a pivotal role in spermiogenesis, the developmental stage where DNA is remodeled, we hypothesized that CNR1 receptors might also influence chromatin quality in sperm. We used Cnr1 null mutant (Cnr1-/-) mice to study the possible role of endocannabinoids on sperm chromatin during spermiogenesis. We demonstrated that CNR1 activation regulated chromatin remodeling of spermatids by either increasing Tnp2 levels or enhancing histone displacement. Comparative analysis of WT, Cnr1+/- and Cnr1-/- animals suggested the possible occurrence of haploinsufficiency for Tnp2 turnover control by CNR1, while histone displacement was disrupted to a lesser extent. Further, flow cytometry analysis demonstrated that the genetic loss of Cnr1 decreased sperm chromatin quality and was associated with sperm DNA fragmentation. This damage increased during epididymal transit, from caput to cauda. Collectively, our results show that the expression/activity of CNR1 controls the physiological alterations of DNA structure during spermiogenic maturation and epididymal transit. Given the deleterious effects of sperm DNA damage on male fertility, we suggest that the reproductive function of marijuana users may also be impaired by deregulation of the endogenous endocannabinoid system.
|Number of pages||13|
|Publication status||Published - Sep 2010|