Detailed characterisation of CB2 receptor protein expression in peripheral blood immune cells from healthy human volunteers using flow cytometry

Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2010 Jan-Mar;23(1):25-34. doi: 10.1177/039463201002300103.


It is commonly accepted from gene expression studies that the CB2 receptor is expressed by most cell types of the rodent and human immune system. However, the exact identity of cells expressing CB2 receptor protein in human blood or the abundance of receptors expressed by each immune subset is not well characterised. We conducted a detailed analysis of CB2 protein levels expressed by blood-derived immune cells from healthy human donors. Flow-cytometry was conducted using 4 commercially available anti-CB2 polyclonal antibodies in conjunction with a selection of immune cell specific markers. Across multiple healthy subjects we observed that NK cells, B-lymphocytes and monocytes expressed a higher level of CB2 receptor than CD4+ or CD8+ T-lymphocytes. Neutrophils also expressed a low level of CB2 receptor. NK cells had the greatest variation in CB2 expression levels, whereas for each of the other cell types CB2 levels were relatively similar between subjects. In contrast to other methods, the high sensitivity of flow-cytometry revealed that CB2 receptors are present on resting T-lymphocytes at low abundance in some healthy subjects. These data provide the first detailed analysis of CB2 protein levels in blood leukocyte subsets from healthy donors and identifies the cell types which could be targeted with CB-mimetic drugs in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / chemistry
  • Leukocytes / chemistry*
  • Neutrophils / chemistry
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / blood*
  • T-Lymphocytes / chemistry


  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2