Crystal Structure of the Human Cannabinoid Receptor CB1

Journal: Cell

Published: 2016-10-20

DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.10.004

Affiliations: 13

Authors: 23

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Research Highlight

Structure solved for reefer receptor

© Ashley Rosenberg/EyeEm/Getty

© Ashley Rosenberg/EyeEm/Getty

How do you get high? It may sound like a stoner question, but the way in which the psychoactive agent in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), engages its target receptor in the brain has long puzzled scientists.

A US-China study co-led by investigators from ShanghaiTech University now provides an answer to this marijuana mystery.

The researchers applied powerful X-rays to a crystallized form of the cannabinoid receptor CB1 tethered to a chemical that, like THC, fits in the receptor like a hand in a glove. They then used the resulting atomic structure to model how the sub-pockets and channels of CB1 interact with molecules that activate or block it.

The findings, reported in Cell, should enable scientists to develop new medications, free of side-effects, for conditions ranging from pain to obesity to substance addiction. They may also help explain why some synthetic forms of cannabis are more dangerous than natural pot.

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  1. Cell 167, 750–762.e14 (2016). doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.10.004
Institutions Share
ShanghaiTech University, China 0.26
Northeastern University (NEU), United States of America (USA) 0.22
Scripps Research, United States of America (USA) 0.17
National Laboratory of Biomacromolecules (NLB), IBP CAS, China 0.11
Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica (SIMM), CAS, China 0.09
University of Southern California (USC), United States of America (USA) 0.07
University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego), United States of America (USA) 0.04
GPCR Consortium, United States of America (USA) 0.04