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Journal of Neuroscience





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Chronic adolescent exposure to Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is linked to elevated neuropsychiatric risk and induces neuronal, molecular and behavioral abnormalities resembling neuropsychiatric endophenotypes. Previous evidence has revealed that the mesocorticolimbic circuitry, including the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and mesolimbic dopamine (DA) pathway are particularly susceptible to THC-induced pathologic alterations, including dysregulation of DAergic activity states, loss of PFC GABAergic inhibitory control and affective and cognitive abnormalities. There are currently limited pharmacological intervention strategies capable of preventing THC-induced neuropathological adaptations. L-Theanine is an amino acid analog of L-glutamate and L-glutamine derived from various plant sources, including green tea leaves. L-Theanine has previously been shown to modulate levels of GABA, DA, and glutamate in various neural regions and to possess neuroprotective properties. Using a preclinical model of adolescent THC exposure in male rats, we report that L-theanine pretreatment before adolescent THC exposure is capable of preventing long-term, THC-induced dysregulation of both PFC and VTA DAergic activity states, a neuroprotective effect that persists into adulthood. In addition, pretreatment with L-theanine blocked THC-induced downregulation of local GSK-3 (glycogen synthase kinase 3) and Akt signaling pathways directly in the PFC, two biomarkers previously associated with cannabis-related psychiatric risk and subcortical DAergic dysregulation. Finally, L-theanine powerfully blocked the development of both affective and cognitive abnormalities commonly associated with adolescent THC exposure, further demonstrating functional and long-term neuroprotective effects of L-theanine in the mesocorticolimbic system.

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