Endocannabinoids inhibit release of nerve growth factor by inflammation-activated mast cells

Biochem Pharmacol. 2011 Aug 15;82(4):380-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2011.05.004. Epub 2011 May 12.


Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a pleiotropic member of the neurotrophin family. Beside its neuronal effects, NGF plays a role in various processes, including angiogenesis. Mast cells release NGF and are among elements contributing to angiogenesis, a process regulated by arrays of factors, including the inhibitory cannabinoids. The possible inhibitory role of cannabinoids on mast cell-related NGF mitogenic effect on endothelial cells was then investigated. Human mastocytic cells HMC-1, challenged with PMA to yield release of NGF, were preincubated with the endocannabinoid PEA. Then, conditioned media were added to HUVEC cultures. PMA-activated HMC-1 cells released substantial amounts of NGF, whereas PEA inhibited PMA-induced NGF release. HUVEC proliferation increased after treatment with media from activated HMC-1 cells, while was reduced with media from HMC-1 cells treated with PEA. To characterize receptors mediating such effects of PEA, RT-PCR and western blot analysis were performed on HMC-1 cells. None of the two cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors was expressed by HMC-1 cells, which on the other hand expressed the orphan receptor GPR55. PEA was ineffective in inhibiting NGF release from HMC-1 cells treated with PMA and transfected with positive GPR55 RNAi, whereas it induced significant reduction of NGF in cells transfected with the corresponding negative control RNAi. Results indicate that NGF released from inflammatory mast cells induces angiogenesis. Cannabinoids attenuate such pro-angiogenic effects of NGF. Finally, cannabinoids could be considered for antiangiogenic treatment in disorders characterized by prominent inflammation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Mast Cells / drug effects
  • Mast Cells / metabolism*
  • Mast Cells / pathology*
  • Nerve Growth Factor / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate / toxicity


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • GPR55 protein, human
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Nerve Growth Factor
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate