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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Feb;294(2):E352-6. Epub 2007 Nov 27.

Cannabinoids stimulate prostaglandin production by human gestational tissues through a tissue- and CB1-receptor-specific mechanism.

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Liggins Institute, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.


Endocannabinoids have been implicated in the mechanisms of implantation, maintenance of pregnancy, and parturition in women. Intrauterine prostaglandin production and actions are also critical in each of these mechanisms. Hence, we have evaluated the effects of cannabinoids on prostaglandin biosynthesis by human gestational membranes. Explants of term amnion and choriodecidua were established and treated with the endogenous endocannabinoids 2-arachidonoyl glycerol and anandamide, as well as the synthetic cannabinoid CP55,940, to determine their ability to modulate PGE(2) production. The explants were also treated with CP55,940 in the presence of either SR141716A (a potent and selective antagonist of the cannabinoid receptor CB1) or NS398 [a cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 inhibitor] to determine whether any observed stimulation of PGE(2) production was mediated through the CB1-receptor and/or COX-2 activity. All three cannabinoids caused a significant increase in PGE(2) production in the amnion but not in the choriodecidua. However, separated fetal (chorion) explants responded to cannabinoid treatment in a similar manner to amnion, whereas maternal (decidual) explants did not. The enhanced PGE(2) production caused by CP55,940 was abrogated by cotreatment with either SR141716A or NS398, illustrating that the cannabinoid action on prostaglandin production in fetal membranes is mediated by CB1 agonism and COX-2. Data from Western blotting show that cannabinoid treatment results in the upregulation of COX-2 expression. This study demonstrates a potential role for endocannabinoids in the modulation of prostaglandin production in late human pregnancy, with potentially important implications for the timing and progression of term and preterm labor and membrane rupture.

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