Background and purpose: The primary cannabinoids, Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta(9)-THC) and Delta(8)-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta(8)-THC) are known to disturb the mitochondrial function and possess antitumor activities. These observations prompted us to investigate their effects on the mitochondrial O(2) consumption in human oral cancer cells (Tu183). This epithelial cell line overexpresses bcl-2 and is highly resistant to anticancer drugs.
Experimental approach: A phosphorescence analyzer that measures the time-dependence of O(2) concentration in cellular or mitochondrial suspensions was used for this purpose.
Key results: A rapid decline in the rate of respiration was observed when Delta(9)-THC or Delta(8)-THC was added to the cells. The inhibition was concentration-dependent, and Delta(9)-THC was the more potent of the two compounds. Anandamide (an endocannabinoid) was ineffective; suggesting the effects of Delta(9)-THC and Delta(8)-THC were not mediated by the cannabinoidreceptors. Inhibition of O(2) consumption by cyanide confirmed the oxidations occurred in the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Delta(9)-THC inhibited the respiration of isolated mitochondria from beef heart.
Conclusions and implications: These results show the cannabinoids are potent inhibitors of Tu183 cellular respiration and are toxic to this highly malignant tumor.