• Activation of both CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors is critical for masculinization of the developing medial amygdala and juvenile social play behavior

      Argue, K.J.; VanRyzin, J.W.; Falvo, D.J. (Society for Neuroscience, 2017)
      Juvenile social play behavior is a shared trait across a wide variety of mammalian species. When play is characterized by the frequency or duration of physical contact, males usually display more play relative to females. The endocannabinoid system contributes to the development of the sex difference in social play behavior in rats. Treating newborn pups with a nonspecific endocannabinoid agonist, WIN55,212-2, masculinizes subsequent juvenile rough-and-tumble play behavior by females. Here we use specific drugs to target signaling through either the CB1 or CB2 endocannabinoid receptor (CB1R or CB2R) to determine which modulates the development of sex differences in play. Our data reveal that signaling through both CB1R and CB2R must be altered neonatally to modify development of neural circuitry regulating sex differences in play. Neonatal co-agonism of CB1R and CB2R masculinized play by females, whereas co-antagonism of these receptors feminized rates of male play. Because of a known role for the medial amygdala in the sexual differentiation of play, we reconstructed Golgi-impregnated neurons in the juvenile medial amygdala and used factor analysis to identify morphological parameters that were sexually differentiated and responsive to dual agonism of CB1R and CB2R during the early postnatal period. Our results suggest that sex differences in the medial amygdala are modulated by the endocannabinoid system during early development. Sex differences in play behavior are loosely correlated with differences in neuronal morphology. Copyright 2017 Argue et al.