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Toxicology. 2008 Mar 12;245(1-2):141-6. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2007.12.019. Epub 2007 Dec 28.

Delta(9)-Tetrahydrocannabinol enhances MCF-7 cell proliferation via cannabinoid receptor-independent signaling.

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  • 1Organization for Frontier Research in Preventive Pharmaceutical Sciences, Hokuriku University, Ho-3 Kanagawa-machi, Kanazawa 920-1181, Japan.


We recently reported that Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta(9)-THC) has the ability to stimulate the proliferation of human breast carcinoma MCF-7 cells. However, the mechanism of action remains to be clarified. The present study focused on the relationship between receptor expression and the effects of Delta(9)-THC on cell proliferation. RT-PCR analysis demonstrated that there was no detectable expression of CB receptors in MCF-7 cells. In accordance with this, no effects of cannabinoid 1/2 (CB1/2) receptor antagonists and pertussis toxin on cell proliferation were observed. Although MCF-7 cell proliferation is suggested to be suppressed by Delta(9)-THC in the presence of CB receptors, it was revealed that Delta(9)-THC could exert upregulation of living cells in the absence of the receptors. Interestingly, Delta(9)-THC upregulated human epithelial growth factor receptor type 2 (HER2) expression, which is known to be a predictive factor of human breast cancer and is able to stimulate cancer cells as well as MCF-7 cells. Actinomycin D-treatment interfered with the upregulation of HER2 and cell proliferation by cannabinoid. Taken together, these studies suggest that, in the absence of CB receptors, Delta(9)-THC can stimulate the proliferation of MCF-7 cells by modulating, at least in part, HER2 transcription.

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