Effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines on cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors in immune cells

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To investigate the regulation of cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 on immune cells by pro-inflammatory cytokines and its potential relevance to the inflammatory neurological disease, multiple sclerosis (MS).


CB1 and CB2 signalling may be anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective in neuroinflammatory diseases. Cannabinoids can suppress inflammatory cytokines but the effects of these cytokines on CB1 and CB2 expression and function are unknown.


Immune cells from peripheral blood were obtained from healthy volunteers and patients with MS. Expression of CB1 and CB2 mRNA in whole blood cells, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and T cells was determined by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). Expression of CB1 and CB2 protein was determined by flow cytometry. CB1 and CB2 signalling in PBMC was determined by Western blotting for Erk1/2.


Pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α (the latter likely NF-κB dependently) can upregulate CB1 and CB2 on human whole blood and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). We also demonstrate upregulation of CB1 and CB2 and increased IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α mRNA in blood of patients with MS compared with controls.


The levels of CB1 and CB2 can be upregulated by inflammatory cytokines, which can explain their increase in inflammatory conditions including MS.

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