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Neuropharmacology. 2011 Feb-Mar;60(2-3):244-51. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2010.09.004. Epub 2010 Sep 16.

The CB2 cannabinoid receptor-selective agonist O-3223 reduces pain and inflammation without apparent cannabinoid behavioral effects.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, PO Box 980613, VA 23298, USA.


Although Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other mixed CB(1)/CB(2) receptor agonists are well established to elicit antinociceptive effects, their psychomimetic actions and potential for abuse have dampened enthusiasm for their therapeutic development. Conversely, CB(2) receptor-selective agonists have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation, without eliciting apparent cannabinoid behavioral effects. In the present study, we developed a novel ethyl sulfonamide THC analog, O-3223, and compared its pharmacological effects to those of the potent, mixed CB(1)/CB(2) receptor agonist, CP55,940, in a battery of preclinical pain models. Competitive cannabinoid receptor binding experiments revealed that O-3223 was approximately 80-fold more selective for CB(2) than CB(1) receptors. Additionally, O-3223 behaved as a full CB(2) receptor agonist in [(35)S]GTPγS binding. O-3223 reduced nociceptive behavior in both phases of the formalin test, reduced thermal hyperalgesia in the chronic constriction injury of the sciatic nerve (CCI) model, and reduced edema and thermal hyperalgesia elicited by intraplantar injection of LPS. These effects were blocked by pretreatment with the CB(2) receptor-selective antagonist SR144528, but not by the CB(1) receptor antagonist, rimonabant. Unlike CP55,940, O-3223 did not elicit acute antinociceptive effects in the hot-plate test, hypothermia, or motor disturbances, as assessed in the rotarod test. These data indicate that the CB(2) receptor-selective agonist, O-3223, reduces inflammatory and neuropathic nociception, without affecting basal nociception or eliciting overt behavioral effects. Moreover, this compound can serve as a template to develop new CB(2) receptor agonists with increased receptor selectivity and increased potency in treating inflammatory and neuropathic pain.

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