Abstract: Cannabinoid receptor 1 (CNR1) gene polymorphisms have been associated with central and peripheral effects of cannabis and schizophrenia pathophysiology. Here, we have tested whether three CNR1 variants (rs1049353, rs1535255 and rs2023239) are associated with changes in brain volumes, body mass index (BMI) or psychopathological scores in a 3-year longitudinal study of 65 first-episode psychosis patients. The rs1049353 at-risk allele was significantly associated with a greater reduction of caudate volume, and the rs2023239 T/C polymorphism showed a significant decrease in thalamic volume after the 3-year period. For those who were not cannabis users, the rs1535255 and rs2023239 polymorphisms had effects in lateral ventricle (LV), and LV and white matter, respectively. The rs2023239 variant also was associated with significant improvements in positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia. There was no significant effect of any of the variants on changes in BMI over the 3-year study. Finally, an interaction between all three polymorphisms was found involving evolution of positive symptoms. These findings suggest that the cannabinoid pathway is associated with schizophrenia evolution over time. However, further studies using larger cohorts are needed to confirm these results. If confirmed, the present findings could lead in subsequent investigations for identification of novel drug targets for improved treatment of patients suffering from schizophrenia.
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