Differential suppression of T-cell subpopulations by thc (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol)

Int J Immunopharmacol. 1990;12(5):539-44. doi: 10.1016/0192-0561(90)90118-7.


THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the major psychoactive component of marijuana, has been shown to suppress various immune functions in vivo and in vitro. THC suppresses murine T-lymphocyte proliferation; however, the effects on T-cell subsets remain unclear. We have stimulated cultured murine splenocytes with the mitogens concanavalin A (Con A) or phytohemagglutinin (PHA) while exposing them to varying concentrations of THC. After three days, the cells were analyzed by the fluorescent activated cell sorter for the following T-cell markers--Thy1, L3T4 and Ly2. The Ly2 cells represent the suppressor/effector T-cells while L3T4 cells represent the helper T-cell subpopulations. The results show that the dose response suppressive effect of THC on T-cell proliferation reflects a preferential inhibition of Ly2 vs L3T4 cells. The effects of THC on other functional parameters are in the process of investigation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Count / drug effects
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Separation / methods
  • Concanavalin A / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology*
  • Flow Cytometry / methods
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Phytohemagglutinins / pharmacology
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / drug effects
  • Stimulation, Chemical
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / drug effects*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / drug effects


  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Concanavalin A
  • Dronabinol