Cannabinoid receptor trafficking in peripheral cells is dynamically regulated by a binary biochemical switch

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The cannabinoid G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) CB1 and CB2 are expressed in different peripheral cells. Localization of GPCRs in the cell membrane determines signaling via G protein pathways. Here we show that unlike in transfected cells, CB receptors in cell lines and primary human cells are not internalized upon agonist interaction, but move between cytoplasm and cell membranes by ligand-independent trafficking mechanisms. Even though CB receptors are expressed in many cells of peripheral origin they are not always localized in the cell membrane and in most cancer cell lines the ratios between CB1 and CB2 receptor gene and surface expression vary significantly. In contrast, CB receptor cell surface expression in HL60 cells is subject to significant oscillations and CB2 receptors form oligomers and heterodimers with CB1 receptors, showing synchronized surface expression, localization and trafficking. We show that hydrogen peroxide and other nonspecific protein tyrosine phosphatase inhibitors (TPIs) such as phenylarsine oxide trigger both CB2 receptor internalization and externalization, depending on receptor localization. Phorbol ester-mediated internalization of CB receptors can be inhibited via this switch. In primary human immune cells hydrogen peroxide and other TPIs lead to a robust internalization of CB receptors in monocytes and an externalization in T cells. This study describes, for the first time, the dynamic nature of CB receptor trafficking in the context of a biochemical switch, which may have implications for studies on the cell-type specific effects of cannabinoids and our understanding of the regulation of CB receptor cell surface expression.

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