Background: Cannabinoid receptors mediate the psychopharmacological action of marijuana and have been localized in the central and peripheral nervous system as well as on cells of the immune system.
Objective: Up to now, two cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) have been cloned and recent studies on animal tissue gave evidence for the presence of cannabinoid receptors in the skin.
Methods: In the present immunohistochemical investigation we determined the precise localization of CB1 and CB2 in sections of human skin and in one case of mastocytosis.
Results: CB1 and CB2 immunoreactivity was observed in cutaneous nerve fiber bundles, mast cells, macrophages, epidermal keratinocytes, and the epithelial cells of hair follicles, sebocytes and eccrine sweat glands. In epidermal keratinocytes, hair follicle and sebaceous glands, CB1 and CB2 were distributed in a complementary fashion. Double-immunostaining with an anti-CGRP antibody suggested the presence of cannabinoid receptors on small afferent peptidergic nerves.
Conclusion: The abundant distribution of cannabinoid receptors on skin nerve fibers and mast cells provides implications for an anti-inflammatory, anti-nociceptive action of cannabinoid receptor agonists and suggests their putatively broad therapeutic potential.