The cannabinoid CB(2) receptor is known to modulate osteoclast function by poorly understood mechanisms. Here, we report that the natural biphenyl neolignan 4'-O-methylhonokiol (MH) is a CB(2) receptor-selective antiosteoclastogenic lead structure (K(i) < 50 nM). Intriguingly, MH triggers a simultaneous G(i) inverse agonist response and a strong CB(2) receptor-dependent increase in intracellular calcium. The most active inverse agonists from a library of MH derivatives inhibited osteoclastogenesis in RANK ligand-stimulated RAW264.7 cells and primary human macrophages. Moreover, these ligands potently inhibited the osteoclastogenic action of endocannabinoids. Our data show that CB(2) receptor-mediated cAMP formation, but not intracellular calcium, is crucially involved in the regulation of osteoclastogenesis, primarily by inhibiting macrophage chemotaxis and TNF-α expression. MH is an easily accessible CB(2) receptor-selective scaffold that exhibits a novel type of functional heterogeneity.
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