Laboratory of Physiologic Studies, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-9413, USA. Pacher@mail.nih.gov
The mammalian body has a highly developed immune system which guards against continuous invading protein attacks and aims at preventing, attenuating or repairing the inflicted damage. It is conceivable that through evolution analogous biological protective systems have been evolved against non-protein attacks. There is emerging evidence that lipid endocannabinoid signaling through cannabinoid 2 (CB₂) receptors may represent an example/part of such a protective system/armamentarium. Inflammation/tissue injury triggers rapid elevations in local endocannabinoid levels, which in turn regulate signaling responses in immune and other cells modulating their critical functions. Changes in endocannabinoid levels and/or CB₂ receptor expressions have been reported in almost all diseases affecting humans, ranging from cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, liver, kidney, neurodegenerative, psychiatric, bone, skin, autoimmune, lung disorders to pain and cancer, and modulating CB₂ receptor activity holds tremendous therapeutic potential in these pathologies. While CB₂ receptor activation in general mediates immunosuppressive effects, which limit inflammation and associated tissue injury in large number of pathological conditions, in some disease states activation of the CB₂ receptor may enhance or even trigger tissue damage, which will also be discussed alongside the protective actions of the CB₂ receptor stimulation with endocannabinoids or synthetic agonists, and the possible biological mechanisms involved in these effects.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.