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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2008 Feb 1;226(3):260-70. Epub 2007 Sep 20.

Cannabidiol-induced apoptosis in primary lymphocytes is associated with oxidative stress-dependent activation of caspase-8.

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Department of Veterinary Medicine, National Taiwan University, No.1, Sec. 4, Roosevelt Road, Taipei, Taiwan 106, ROC.


We recently reported that cannabidiol (CBD) exhibited a generalized suppressive effect on T-cell functional activities in splenocytes directly exposed to CBD in vitro or isolated from CBD-administered mice. To investigate the potential mechanisms of CBD effects on T cells, we characterized the pro-apoptotic effect of CBD on primary lymphocytes. The apoptosis of splenocytes was markedly enhanced following CBD exposure in a time- and concentration-dependent manner, as evidenced by nuclear hypodiploidity and DNA strand breaks. Exposure of splenocytes to CBD elicited an early production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) with the peak response at 1 h post CBD treatment. In parallel with the ROS production, a gradual diminishment in the cellular glutathione (GSH) content was detected in CBD-treated splenocytes. Both CBD-mediated ROS production and GSH diminishment were remarkably attenuated by the presence of N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), a thiol antioxidant. In addition, CBD treatment significantly stimulated the activation of caspase-8, which was abrogated in the presence of NAC or GSH. Pretreatment of splenocytes with a cell-permeable inhibitor for caspase-8 significantly attenuated, in a concentration-dependent manner, CBD-mediated apoptosis, but not ROS production. Collectively, the present study demonstrated that the apoptotic effect of CBD in primary lymphocytes is closely associated with oxidative stress-dependent activation of caspase-8.

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