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Cannabinoids, whether plant-derived, synthetic or endogenous, have been shown to stimulate appetite in the adult organism. We have reported previously that cannabinoid receptors play a critical role during the early suckling period: The selective cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist N-(piperidiny-1-yl)-5-(4-chlorophenyl)-1-(2,4-dichlorophenyl)-4-methyl-1H-pyrazole-3-carboxamide (SR141617A) permanently prevented milk ingestion in a dose-dependent manner, when administered to (Sabra, albino) mouse pups, within 1 day of birth. As a consequence, these pups died within the first week of life. We now generalize this finding to a different strain of mice (C57BL/6). Further, we show that cannabinoid CB1 receptor blockade (20 mg/kg SR141716A) must occur within 24 h after birth as injection of SR141716A into 2- or 5-day-old pups had a much smaller effect or no effect at all, respectively. Cannabinoid CB1 receptor knockout mice did not ingest milk on the first day of life, similarly to SR141716A-treated normal pups, as measured by the appearance of "milkbands". However, the knockout pups started to display milkbands from day 2 of life. Survival rates of cannabinoid CB1 receptor knockout mice were affected significantly, but to a lesser extent than normal pups, by the administration of SR141716A. Daily administration of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl glycerol, or the synthetic agonists (R)-( )-[2,3-dihydro-5-methyl-3-(4-morpholinylmethyl)pyrrolo[1,2,3-de]-1,4-benzoxazin-6-yl]-1-naphthalenylmethanone (WIN55,212-2, 5 mg/kg) or (-)-cis-3-[2-Hydroxy4-(1,1-dimethylheptyl) phenyl]-trans-4-(3-hydroxypropyl)cyclohexanol (CP55,940, 5 or 20 mg/kg) did not promote survival or weight gain in CB1-/- pups. Our data support previous evidence for a critical role of cannabinoid CB1 receptors for the initiation of suckling. Further, the present observations support the existence of an unknown cannabinoid receptor, with partial control over milk ingestion in newborns. Our data also suggest that the CB1-/- neonates possess a compensatory mechanism which helps them overcome the lack of cannabinoid CB1 receptors.

(C) 2003Elsevier, Inc.