Characterization of cannabinoid receptor ligands in tissues natively expressing cannabinoid CB2 receptors

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Background and Purpose
Although cannabinoid CB2 receptor ligands have been widely characterized in recombinant systems in vitro, little pharmacological characterization has been performed in tissues natively expressing CB2 receptors. The aim of this study was to compare the pharmacology of CB2 receptor ligands in tissue natively expressing CB2 receptors (human, rat and mouse spleen) and hCB2-transfected CHO cells.

Experimental Approach
We tested the ability of well-known cannabinoid CB2 receptor ligands to stimulate or inhibit [35S]GTPγS binding to mouse, rat and human spleen membranes and to hCB2-transfected CHO cell membranes. cAMP assays were also performed in hCB2-CHO cells.

Key Results
The data presented demonstrate that: (i) CP 55,940, WIN 55,212-2 and JWH 133 behave as CB2 receptor full agonists both in spleen and hCB2-CHO cells, in both [35S]GTPγS and cAMP assays; (ii) JWH 015 behaves as a low-efficacy agonist in spleen as well as in hCB2-CHO cells when tested in the [35S]GTPγS assay, while it displays full agonism when tested in the cAMP assay using hCB2-CHO cells; (iii) (R)-AM 1241 and GW 405833 behave as agonists in the [35S]GTPγS assay using spleen, instead it behaves as a low-efficacy inverse agonist in hCB2-CHO cells; and (iv) SR 144528, AM 630 and JTE 907 behave as CB2 receptor inverse agonists in all the tissues.

Conclusion and Implications
Our results demonstrate that CB2 receptor ligands can display differential pharmacology when assays are conducted in tissues that natively express CB2 receptors and imply that conclusions from recombinant CB2 receptors should be treated with caution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)887-899
Number of pages13
JournalBritish Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number4
Early online date27 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013

Bibliographical note

© 2013 The Authors. British Journal of Pharmacology © 2013 The British Pharmacological Society.


  • cannabinoid
  • CB2 receptors
  • spleen
  • hCB2-CHO cells
  • [35S]GTPγS
  • cAMP


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