Neurotoxicity Research

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 173–182 | Cite as

Neuroprotective Action of the CB1/2 Receptor Agonist, WIN 55,212-2, against DMSO but Not Phenobarbital-Induced Neurotoxicity in Immature Rats

  • Megan N. Huizenga
  • Patrick A. ForcelliEmail author


The developing brain is uniquely susceptible to drug-induced increases in programmed cell death or apoptosis. Many compounds, including anticonvulsant drugs, anesthetic agents, and ethanol, when administered in a narrow postnatal window in rodents, result in increased pruning of neurons. Here, we report that dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) triggers widespread neurodegeneration in the immature (postnatal day, P7) rat brain, an effect consistent with a prior report in neonatal mice. We found that the synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist WIN 55,212-2 (WIN) exerts a neuroprotective effect against DMSO-induced cell death. We extended these findings to determine if WIN is neuroprotective against another drug class known to increase developmental cell death, namely antiseizure drugs. The antiseizure drug phenobarbital (PB) remains the primary treatment for neonatal seizures, despite significantly increasing cell death in the developing rodent brain. WIN exerts antiseizure effects in immature rodent seizure models, but increases the toxicity associated with neonatal ethanol exposure. We thus sought to determine if WIN would protect against or exacerbate PB-induced cell death. Unlike either the prior report with ethanol or our present findings with DMSO, WIN was largely without effect on PB-induced cell death. WIN alone did not increase cell death over levels observed in vehicle-treated rats. These data suggest that WIN has a favorable safety profile in the developing brain and could potentially serve as an adjunct therapy with phenobarbital (albeit one that does not attenuate PB-induced toxicity).


Apoptosis Cell death Degeneration Development Rat Toxicity Brain growth spurt Barbiturate Cannabinoid 



dimethyl sulfoxide


WIN 55,212-2




postnatal day



MNH was supported by TL1TR001431; PAF was supported by R01NS097762 and KL2TR001432.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology and PhysiologyGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeuroscienceGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Interdisciplinary Program in NeuroscienceGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

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