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Br J Pharmacol. 2008 Jan;153(2):240-51. Epub 2007 Nov 26.

CB2 receptors in the brain: role in central immune function.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Medicine, Richmond, VA 23298-0678, USA.


Recently, it has been recognized that the cannabinoid receptor CB2 may play a functionally relevant role in the central nervous system (CNS). This role is mediated primarily through microglia, a resident population of cells in the CNS that is morphologically, phenotypically, and functionally related to macrophages. These cells also express the cannabinoid receptor CB1. The CB1 receptor (CB1R) is constitutively expressed at low levels while the CB2 receptor (CB2R) is expressed at higher levels and is modulated in relation to cell activation state. The relatively high levels of the CB2R correspond with microglia being in 'responsive' and 'primed' states, suggesting the existence of a 'window' of functional relevance during which activation of the CB2R modulates microglial activities. Signature activities of 'responsive' and 'primed' microglia are chemotaxis and antigen processing, respectively. The endocannabinoid 2-arachidonylglycerol has been reported to stimulate a chemotactic response from these cells through the CB2R. In contrast, we have shown in vivo and in vitro that the exogenous cannabinoids delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and CP55940 inhibit the chemotactic response of microglia to Acanthamoeba culbertsoni, an opportunistic pathogen that is the causative agent of Granulomatous Amoebic Encephalitis, through activation of the CB2R. It is postulated that these exogenous cannabinoids superimpose an inhibitory effect on pro-chemotactic endocannabinoids that are elicited in response to Acanthamoeba. Furthermore, the collective results suggest that the CB2R plays a critical immune functional role in the CNS.

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